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The Invisible Man

by Padraic Maroney
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Mar 21, 2020
'The Invisible Man'
'The Invisible Man'  

Available digitally today!

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The idea of an invisible man has been around for over a century since H.G. Wells first published the novel of the same name. Since then, adaptations and variations have come along, illustrating both the potential comedy and horror of the idea. The newest version of "The Invisible Man" offers a modern take, with the title character using technology to terrorize his estranged wife.

The title character, in this case, is Adrian. He's so abusive and controlling toward his wife, Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss), that she is left with only one option: Running off in the middle of the night in an attempt to regain her life. After two weeks of living with PTSD, Cecilia's sister informs her that Adrian has taken his own life. Despite the news, Cecilia quickly realizes that something isn't quite right. She's convinced that Adrian is alive and is haunting her — only, neither she nor anyone else can see him, which leads everyone to think she has gone crazy.

The film's extended prologue, showing Cecilia fleeing from her marriage, initially gives the film a "Sleeping with the Enemy" vibe. You can tell from Ceclia's terror that Adrian is a bad guy. Other than a quick conversation with her sister and friend, the extent of what she has endured is never made completely clear. This is not a request to add additional length to a film that is already overly too long, but flashbacks or adding a quick scene or two in the beginning in place of some of the meandering middle parts would have helped clarify exactly what she was trying to escape.

What follows isn't much better, unless your idea of watching a woman be gaslighted for an hour is entertainment. Unlike other entries in its genre, this "Invisible Man" doesn't so much have the antagonist toy with Cecilia as try to drive her insane and cause her to lose all credibility. He isn't satisfied with re-arranging objects to mess with her mind. No, he goes for punching the teenage girl in whose bedroom she's crashing and sending devastating e-mails to her sister, misdeeds for which the blame is put squarely on Cecilia.

Writer-director Leigh Whannell never quite nails down the tone of the film. At times he seems to be going for an atmospheric, "Adrian could be anywhere" feeling. But at other times, he is just offering up a run-of-the-mill thriller. He was much more effective with the original "Saw" and "Insidious" movies, though he was assisted by his filmmaking partner, James Wan, on both of those projects.

The script does offer some intriguing kernels, such as the revelation about how Adrian's invisibility is achieved. But Whannell isn't concerned with exploring anything in depth. He only ever hints at possible tension between the sisters, exacerbated by that bogus e-mail. It seems only fitting that in a movie about being invisible, the characters and plot are also barely fleshed out.

Made with the kind of thrift that producer Jason Blum has become known for, the film suffers from effects that put the budget's limitations on full display. The initial moments of the film show water crashing on rocks with the opening credits appearing as if they had been hiding the whole time, only becoming visible after getting wet. This effect comes across as cheap, and it doesn't set a good tone for the rest of the film. Many of the times when invisible Adrian interacts with people, the effects don't come off as looking natural.

Whether it was budget-related, or a creative choice, Whannell employs a lot of shots of empty rooms. In most movies you could bet that you would see something move, but not here. Initially, it feels like the filmmaker is toying with the audience to get your guard down, but after going back to this trope a few more times its effect wears off. Is the audience meant to assume that Adrian is quietly standing in the corner observing, waiting for his chance to make a move? From the little we know about him, he's not exactly such a passive kind of guy.

While uneven and too long, there's enough here to satisfy casual horror fans looking for a way to kill two hours. The horror that Cecilia endures is more psychological than physical, leading "The Invisible Man" to be much more in the vein of Whannell's early torture porn film than many would think. The only difference here is that the scars left behind on the victims can't be seen.

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