Wednesday, September 30, 2020

‘The Invisible Man’ not just a copy of 1933 original

In 2017, Universal Studios tried to remake “The Mummy” with Tom Cruise as a globe-trotting action-adventure film. This would hopefully kickstart the “Dark Universe” and tie in movies about the “Bride of Frankenstein” and even “The Invisible Man.” However, the film struggled to reach $80 million domestically and this attempt at a cinematic universe died before it even began.

What if they were to remake a classic horror story with more of a plan than to just spawn sequels?

“The Invisible Man” (2020) stars Elizabeth Moss as Cecilia Kass. We first meet her as she is running away from her partner, Adrian Griffin, played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen. Their relationship was horribly toxic and Adrian ends up taking his own life, leaving his fortune to Cecilia. She believes this is all a hoax as she feels like she is still being haunted by him.

The symbol of an abusive man who can be felt in a room but not seen is a strong representation of Cecilia’s trauma. All of the horror and suspense is driven by her past, not the jump scares of the present. This is the biggest reason why the remake works so well; it isn’t a beat-for-beat remake.

“The Invisible Man” from 1933 is about a mad scientist who arrives in a town and becomes a murderer. Leigh Whannell’s screenplay is able to take that core concept of an invisible person and seamlessly bring it into the present day with timely topics of abuse and additions of science fiction elements to the plotting.

Saying Moss is great in this film is a lot like saying “water is wet.” She continues the streak of excellent female performances in horror that includes Toni Collette in “Hereditary,” and Lupita Nyong’o in “Us.” While Moss may not be pulling double duty as she did in “Us,” the film relies on her to sell the audience on there being a real threat in an empty room.

The film was directed by Leigh Whannell, and the filmmaking on display is very impressive as well. There are several moments where the camera wanders down empty hallways or is purposely far away from characters with a lot of negative space in the frame. In these quiet moments that go on just a little too long, your mind plays games on you. Is that really Adrian? The film also stays in Cecilia’s perspective throughout the setpieces so who knows, maybe the room really is empty.

The trailer does show that blood will spill in a particularly excellent hallway sequence, and that feels like a misstep. Showing these action-heavy parts reveals something that happens in the third act that would have been better as a surprise. These moments prove this is the same director as the super slick and brutal sci-fi action film, “Upgrade.”

When talking about filmmakers, the word “exciting” has an added meaning. It can be used as a shorthand for someone whose work is really good, but their best is ahead of them. That is exactly how Whannel should be labeled. I am definitely excited to see what he does next.

 

Email Cameron Kaercher at cp@cardinalpointsonline.com

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