The Invisible Man, which was originally a science fiction story written by H.G. Wells in 1897, is such a simple concept that it’s easily adaptable to multiple genres. The premise has been used in horror, comedy, drama, and more in at least 20 different movie and TV adaptations, and it’s easy to see many more being made in the future.
The latest version, written and directed by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious), jumps right into the story in which Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) is escaping from her controlling husband, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). She goes into hiding with her sister’s boyfriend, James (Aldis Hodge), but soon finds out that Adrian has supposedly committed suicide in the wake of her leaving.
Her newfound freedom is short-lived, however, as Cecilia starts to believe that not only is Adrian not dead, but he has discovered a way to make himself invisible and stalk her. Just about anything that could go wrong for Cecilia does go wrong, and with no physical proof to show she’s not going crazy, Cecilia must find a way to put a stop to the phenomenon herself.
Whannell made his name in the horror genre, and while this film falls somewhat in that category, it’s more of a mystery thriller with a bit of horror thrown in. Whannell does his level best to ramp up the tension, with camera pans to empty spaces to give the impression that somebody unseen is watching or waiting to attack. Sometimes they’re real and sometimes they’re red herrings, but they’re equally effective no matter the outcome.
That approach works for the first half of the film, but the story details get a little wonky in the second half. There’s only so far you can go with the premise of the film before other characters start to get suspicious, as well, and the ways in which Whannell tries to glide over certain things goes beyond the suspension of disbelief. Still, when he needs to deliver the goods in the end, he does so with style.
The casting of Moss is the film hitting way above its weight, as the Emmy winner is not the usual type of actor you’d see in a movie like this. As you’d expect, she elevates every scene she’s in, which is almost all of them. Hodge and Storm Reid, who plays James’ daughter, make for an appealing pair and work well with Moss. Jackson-Cohen only appears in a handful of scenes, and thankfully so, as his performance is about as wooden as they come.
The idea of being invisible has many applications in storytelling, and as this film proves, using it in a thriller/horror is one of the best. With some great acting and solid storytelling, The Invisible Man has only strengthened the legacy of Wells’ story.