The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man ★★★★½

It's always nice when a flick actually lives up to it's hype. Not that I had much doubt, as I loved Director Leigh Whannell's 2018 B-movie gem "Upgrade". With a compelling storyline, a bevy of smart scares, sly special effects, and a truly outstanding lead performance, "The Invisible Man" more than deserves the praise (and success) it's received.

Combing the classic horror, revenge pic and stalker movie genres, the film sets up it's nifty arc with a fantastic opening that quickly establishes the abusive situation Cecilia (a fabulous Elisabeth Moss) finds herself in. Her boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a brilliant and successful optics engineer, is a violent control freak...prone to psychologically and physically tormenting her. After managing to (barely) get away from his state-of-the-art home/compound, Cecilia receives news a few weeks later that her tormentor committed suicide, and has left her millions and the property. But as the days pass, she still senses his threatening presence, and odd things are happening (a kitchen fire, missing documents for a presentation) that start to make her question the death. Recognizing his field of expertise, she attempts to convince her sister (Harriet Dyer), her best friend James, who is a police detective (Aldis Hodge), and various law and health officials that Adrian is not dead, and that's he's managed to come up with a way to become invisible. But who can believe that? As the mysterious happenings turn more violent, Cecilia is the one being blamed. However, Cecilia is resourceful in her own right...and won't give up without a fight.

Centering the film on Cecilia's experience is the mastertroke behind what works so well here. By having the audience share the situation with the main character, the tension is easily ratcheted up, sometimes to unnerving levels. I ended up watching the damn thing focused on the background of each shot instead of the characters that are front and center, because I kept trying to anticipate what the devious bastard was about to do. I like it when horror films get me that invested. The aforementioned supporting cast members are uniformly top notch, with Jackson-Cohen going for it as the asshole villain, and Hodge convincing as the pic's moral compass. Up and coming actress Storm Reid ("A Wrinkle In Time") steals her moments as James' daughter, the person in Cecilia's life that she's especially fond of. Also nice seeing Benedict Hardie, who was so good in "Upgrade", show up here as well in a minor role.

I know some have dismissed or championed this film as an example of Hollywood going "woke", and there's no doubt this movie plays a bit more heightened in the era of the me too movement, but none of that entered my mind while I watched. 

Bottom line, this is a tense and clever updating on the classic Universal Monster property. One that I will certainly revisit. I look forward to whatever Whannell has in store next. Easy recommendation.

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