Writer-director Leigh Whannell stands at the forefront of this long adapted film series – can he succeed? What we do know is that his recent foray into sci-fi with his previous film Upgrade (2018) proved he was a more than capable director, it is only now that we are given confirmation that he may be something much more. So yes, The Invisible Man is a superb film. What can be said is that this adaptation stands on its own upon all the adaptations of The Invisible Man, moreover, it stands on its own within the thriller/horror genre.
Written and directed by Leigh Whannell this horror/thriller film follows the story of a girl named Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss), who believes she is being stalked by her recently deceased ex-husband, Adrian – who is presumably, entirely invisible.
The Invisible Man forces a suffocating sense of claustrophobia upon its viewers; there’s a never-ending sense that the character is being observed at all times. Environments feel equal in potential danger no matter where they are or how crowded they are. Much like the horror film It Follows (2014), there’s a constant itch that someone or something could strike at any moment. I haven’t seen such levels of tension in high budget thrillers since 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016). Like, Cloverfield Lane, Leigh Whannell ensures that his character also isn’t diseased by stupidity — a plague that many horror protagonists seem to be infected with.
The protagonist Cecilia is scared out of her wits, yes, but she will use her mind to get through tricky situations. This determined attitude is bolstered by a raw performance from Elizabeth Moss – who works on expressing fear at every layer it exists upon. Moss has a particular talent for making dialogue feel natural and authentic. Supporting roles all work brilliantly too, with Aldis Hodge playing the role of a family friend and shoulder for Cecilia to lean on. Harriet Dyer play’s the role of Cecilia’s sister and fits greatly within the narrative that Whannell has built.
What is clear, is that director Leigh Whannell understands that different material requires an entirely different approach in filmmaking. He understands this and he adjusts his way of storytelling to match. Creating a tense atmosphere is something few directors can achieve, doing it over the span of a 2 hour runtime successfully, well, that’s something else entirely. Whannell’s handling of this presumably played-out film series proves that a remake can be more than just that, especially if a unique vision is behind the camera. A remake can expand upon the original story in new and interesting ways that the previous films may have overlooked. Films like this make a statement in the defense of film remakes… sometimes a remake is better.
This film is littered with shots that simply stop and pan around the environment at an agonizingly slow pace; so as to make your toes curl and back stiffen; practically begging you to scan your eyes across the screen for any tiny irregularity that might be the Invisible Man. From parking lots to streets, kitchens to living rooms, sofas to tables – space – no matter the size, feels small. Director Leigh Whannell has done a fantastic job at making every corner feel occupied by someone who could or could not be there.
Much of this film is spent in either broad daylight or low-light environments; these low-light shots are particularly abundant and can become fatiguing if viewed on a particularly washed out cinema-screen. This film contains a slightly desaturated color-grade that piles on top of the many low-light shots, creating some grey-wash over the screen at times. Despite being filmed entirely digitally, this is a softly focused film, yet still clean. Not that it entirely matters, as this film doesn’t rely on dark rooms or alleyways to provide tension – that is built almost entirely from the thoughtful shot placement by cinematographer Stefan Duscio — the same cinematographer responsible for providing us with the inky black futurism in Upgrade (2018).
Sound quality is exemplary, both technically and narratively. This film relies heavily on the spatial use of sound to amplify tension. Is the threat in the corner of the room, is it right in front of you, or is right behind your ear? The Dolby Atmos track provides a spatial “binaural” (360 degree) sound to enhance immersion. Channel separation is strong, as barely perceptible footsteps can be heard moving through hallways and around corners with true accuracy; providing depth and volume within the soundscape. One could compare this film’s use of sound to A Quiet Place (2017); as the presence of sound within the story is indicative of an immediate impending threat for the character. The silent and bone-chilling moments are certainly frequent, but are perfectly juxtaposed by a thundering soundtrack by composer Benjamin Wallfisch – lead composer of Blade Runner 2049 (2018). While you certainly hear plenty of 2049 in these tracks, more often than not, I felt it touched shoulders more with the haunting score of Annihilation (2018) by composers Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow – creating a harrowing sense of dread and sophistication.
The Invisible Man is a spectral thriller that nobody saw coming – better than it has any right to be and perhaps a new modern landmark in how to make a thriller/horror, incidentally, both thrilling and horrifying. Harrowingly confined, skillfully acted, and visually sleek — The Invisible Man exposes itself within the thriller genre in exhilarating form; with director Leigh Whannell in full command.