This was good fun!
It’s easy enough to make a mediocre horror flick which will keep audiences relatively happy; keep plot points simple, build suspense with a few well timed jump scares and slide in a decent enough twist at the climax. If that’s done, then the film will probably make back it’s production costs fairly easily without needing to invest in high calibre actors, a strong screenplay or high production values. But when a horror manages to do both, then it becomes quite a unique and exhilarating cinematic experience. Leigh Whannell’s “The Invisible Man”, based loosely on H.G. Wells’ book of the same name, is certainly better than your average piecemeal horror and is executed nicely. The concept is a cool one and Elisabeth Moss does well in the lead role but it falls short of such classics as “The Shining”, “Misery” or “Silence of the Lambs”.
What the film does do well is play into the most basic and universal fears; sometimes an empty doorway or creaky floorboard can illicit as much terror in an audience as a creepy looking monster or faceless serial killer. The film opens with Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) executing a well coordinated escape from her possessive and abusive scientist boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and seeking refuge with her friend James (Aldis Hodge). To Cecilia’s surprise, she is told that Adrian is found dead in an apparent suicide, but when strange things start happening to her, she questions whether Adrian is really dead at all and has found a way to become invisible through his knowledge of fibre-optics and is now tormenting her for leaving him. Of course nobody believes her, and Cecilia must prove that she’s telling the truth and that Adrian really is behind all of the terrifying things happening around her.
It’s a clever premise for a horror, because people do tend to fear what they can’t see and what they can’t understand and the second act of the film while Cecilia is starting to notice something isn’t quite right is genuinely terrifying. I do think though that Cecilia catches on far too quickly to the fact that Adrian has become invisible and is the cause of all her recent torments, and once the logical reasoning behind something scary or the identity of the masked villain is revealed in a horror, any sense of mystery is promptly extinguished. I would have preferred a little more suspense to have been built up before Cecilia starts getting strangled and thrown around in mid air, because once that illusion is broken, the film struggles to regain that same atmosphere. The fight scenes and special effects are actually pretty good fun, especially when Adrian runs around beating up an entire staff of guards and policemen while none of them can see him. Just on that though, there are countless times throughout the film where other people absolutely would have seen the same bizarre occurrences that Cecilia does, which annoyed me because if Adrian is supposed to be this all powerful, domineering and ruthless psychopath, then he’s actually pretty sloppy at it.
Elisabeth Ross throws herself head first into this film, and plays the frustration and delirium of her character with brutal earnestness. Cecilia’s transition from the timid subject of a controlling and abusive monster to the empowered heroine of the story is an exciting one to watch in itself. The climax of the film is a clever enough twist I suppose, but there was something missing in the final moments. So many people throughout the story hadn’t believed Cecilia and called her insane, and I would have loved for even just a shot of their faces when they realise that they were wrong and that she had been telling the truth the whole time (something similar to when the passengers all look sheepish when Jodi Foster walks off the plane with her daughter in her arms in 2005’s “Flightplan”).
This was definitely a notch above most horrors, and was executed with style and with a strong lead performance. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think it deserves a lot of the accolades that it’s been receiving and I doubt very much that it will be considered as a classic of the genre. This is a fun Saturday night P.J. sort of flick where it wouldn’t matter if you fell asleep half way through and woke up towards the end with a pizza crust on your belly, and there’s certainly a place for movies just like that.
By Jock Lehman