Poor little Elisabeth Moss' misadventures with psychopathic, baby-hungry men just won't end. After sweeping the Emmys, year after year as Offered in Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, the actor is now the screamer-in-chief for director Leigh Whannell in The Invisible Man. The film is less sexually creepy but far more horrifying version of HG Wells' novel than that 2000 nightmare called Hollow Man.
Whannell brings to the forefront the very real, very horrifying ideas of stalking, gaslighting and abuse. It is all made more severe by his attention to detail and Moss' incredible talent at letting horror drip from her face, scene after scene, and film after film.
We meet Moss' Cecilia at 3 in the night, lying in the plush bed of the most gorgeous house you'd have ever seen. The walls are all made of glass, looking out to the vast ocean and crashing waves. But for Cecilia, it is a glass cage where her abusive, maniacal husband has kept her as his plaything for years. Tonight, however, she has plotted a slick plan to escape his clutches.
Watch the trailer of "The Invisible Man" here
With her bags packed and alarms disabled, Cecilia makes it out to the free world but her mind does not. Weeks later, even when she is told that he has killed himself; her heart is not ready to believe it. She is almost convinced that he is back and this time, he has also managed to turn himself invisible. The sheets go sliding off, she sees footprints in coffee powder but like those around her, you, too, don't believe any of it. Those M Night Shyamalan movies have done a great job of making you cynical of the obvious.
She believes the world is gaslighting her, just like her husband used to. But all those pills on her washbasin, the trauma she has lived through and the easily available explanation for all of the suspicious incidents, work against her. The entire first half of the film might feel a bit slow, but soon enough, things go spiraling out of control. The film and Whannell will now demand your full attention and you'd give it willingly, sitting on the edge of your seat.
Even with just a handful few generic horror films to his writing-directing credit, Whannell brings a previously unseen way of horrifying his audience. He lets the camera sit, for many moments, at a coat rack or a pan of burning eggs as if there is somebody in the frame and you just can't see them. You start imagining a figure moving. You wonder what he might be doing. Is he staring at her? Is he watching by the stove, letting the pan catch fire? There is no one there, yet you feel you've just watched something happen.
The music also knows when to swell, when to simmer and, most importantly, when to wait in silence. It envelops suspense with the loud vibrating beats and goes full orchestra when Alice slays the Jabberwocky. However, this is music you've heard earlier in every other action, superhero and thriller since Transformers. It's a job well done but a job nonetheless.
Thankfully for the music department, Moss accomplishes so much with her watering eyes and sad smiles; one knows exactly which emotion is heavy in every moment. As a woman in a dire situation, first looking to escape and then helplessly hoping to have others believe her, she is more than effective, taking the film from passable to thrilling.
She screams, kicks her legs and arms, she is scared of the invisible man and she is ready to slice him up.
But even with Moss' undeniably enthralling performance and the neat tricks and worthy intentions of Whannell, the film still feels lacking in places. Even with the empty scary spaces, the husband himself isn't really all that. The film begins from present day and never tells anything of the abuse she had to go through, their relationship or the exact reason one should be so scared of him. Looking back, it might even come across as a shallow mouse-cat chase. Of course, the chase made for a good watch but not much else.
The Invisible Man is an exciting albeit not path-breaking horror film that will test your patience a little before it shocks you. Wait for the good bits a while. I promise you won't meet a hollow centre.