Sunday, March 01, 2020
Guest Post: The Invisible Man (2020)
GONE GUY: The Invisible Man (2020)
By Jonas Schwartz
A vital horror remake needs four components to succeed. A compelling lead, taut direction, smart dialogue, and a purpose for being remade, so that the new version is relevant to the times and not just a cash grab. Leigh Whannell's new The Invisible Man has all that in spades. Not a perfect film, but there's enough craft and ingenuity to invade people's psyches.
Late at night, Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss, Mad Men and Handmaid's Tale) retrieves her hidden bags and sneaks out of her fortress of a house from her abusive boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, The Haunting of Hill House). Adrian has treated Cecilia like a possession, and he attacks her for wandering off like a dog. Resourceful and determined, she manages to get away, nonetheless. While recovering with a cop friend, James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter, Cecilia continues to suffer from battered wife syndrome. Learning that Adrian committed suicide and left her all his money gives Cecilia some solace. However, Cecilia begins to feel stalked even though Adrian has died, and before long, she knows that an unseen presence is putting her back in peril. But everyone else thinks Cecilia has just lost her mind. She becomes isolated by her loved ones and deemed dangerous. While they pity and fear Cecilia, her friends had better watch their backs, because an invisible spector is right behind them.
The Invisible Man would never have worked without an actress of Moss' caliber. The film is from her perspective and the audience must be fully invested in her nightmares and her ability to fight back. Moss allows herself to play that line between determined and unraveled. Her behavior needs to appear nuts or all her friends who abandon her would just seem like jerks, so the audience wouldn't care that they too are being menaced. Moss projects strength of mind and physical prowess to survive the assaults from someone she can't see. Additionally, Wannell taps into the abused captive scenario and never makes her a victim. Cecilia is always fighting back, whether physically or psychologically. She drives the entire story and never allows events just to happen to her. She's a potent but credible heroine. Even her occupation becomes an essential part of her being. As an architect, she not only is able to compartmentalize and think through details quickwittedly, but she knows all the secret compartments in her house to hide things from her menacing boyfriend.
Wannell takes the original HG Wells story (and classic James Whale 1933 film) and breathes new life by following the impetus, but not repeating the plot points of the originals (though he does nod to the origins by naming the villain Griffin like the original tale). The villain's ability to become invisible is stylish and creative. With the opening, Wannell harks back to those houses on the haunted hills of horror films past, hanging over a cliff above the crashing waves, and the setting manages to be both gothic and post-modern. He draws visual cues from water, the waves, rain, etc, to the opaque killer. Wannell earns his jump scares and they never seem cheap. The score by Benjamin Wallfisch is spine-chilling and reminiscent of Franz Waxman's early 30s horror music, particularly for The Bride of Frankenstein.
One plot hole that does bug is turning the villain into the Invisible Terminator. The invisibility is believable in a sketchy, technology way, but his super-human strength is not. He lifts huge men and throws them down corridors which is never explained convincingly. However, this is not enough to detract from enjoying the movie. Director Wannell has already proven himself as one of Hollywood's most beguiling horror writers of the new millennium. He gave birth to two horror franchises, SAW and Insidious. Now with The Invisible Man, his second film as a director, he illustrates his panache as a suspense master.
Jonas Schwartz is Vice President / Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, West Coast Critic for TheaterMania, Contributing Critic for Broadway World, and a Contributing Critic for ArtsInLA.
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