The Invisible Man is like the Song, Not the Book (a Review)

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It feels so long ago when Universal tried to push their own Shared Universe, dubbed “The Dark Universe” with The Mummy staring Tom Cruise. It seemed all those plans were totally and utterly scrapped. It seems that have instead been adjusted.

The Invisible Man, produced by the newest and biggest horror company Blumhouse, stars Elizabeth Moss as Cecilia. After she runs away from her abuse boyfriend she finds out he killed himself, only she still feels his presence. When the impossible starts to happen around her, she begins to suspect he was able to find a way to turn himself invisible in order to completely stalk her and take control of her life in new ways.

Elizabeth Moss is amazing. The whole movie is very, very good. The acting across the board is great, but she is amazing. In the first minutes alone she is able to convey so many emotions on her face that build and build. Her decline into insanity is incredible. She is able to act against nothing so well that it makes it believable her ex-boyfriend is in the room. Her own fear and terror gives the gravity of his presence with only a still shot of an empty door.

In fact the direction as a whole is stellar. The films deliberate and tense pace pervades the movie so deeply that it pulls off making static or slow moving shots of nothing feel weighty. It is not just still moments. There is some action with guards against the invisible man that shows the director Leigh Whannell’s skill in doing a mix of wide panning shots and kinetic movement. The movie also conveys a great sense of subtly when it wants to. The opening alone gives so much information with so little. It is all impressive.

Only, the most impressive element in the whole movie is the use of sound. Sound is often a good way to spook the audience in tense moments, but this movie does it better than many have in a long time. Even the slight click of a light on and off, or the ring of a phone, or creaking of a floorboard can rip the tension up so quickly with so little it’s amazing.

Now, there has been a lot made of the movie’s themes of stalking, feeling trapped, alone, and utterly helpless, and the trauma abuse survivors endure even after the relationship is over. It is a great take for the film to have because of its focus on Cecilia growing and taking control back in her life. I just can’t stop thinking of the other piece of media with the title “Invisible Man.” That being the song released by the band Theory of a Deadman.

Theory of a Deadman is a Canadian rock band, a la Nickleback but both somehow better and worse. There is a song on their first album (maybe the first song on the album too) called the Invisible Man about how he is stalking a woman and he cannot be seen just like the movie.

The big difference is POV. The song clearly is from the stalker’s perspective while the movie is squarely from Cecilia. This switch gives the movie something the three minute song does not, a likable lead (this whole section was just to show my knowledge of early 2000s butt-rock, thanks for noticing. Oh, and the fact it’s not the closing credits song does disappoint me).

The movie is not perfect. There are a lot of nitpicky questions about the titular invisible man’s motives in a scene that don’t work, and the ability to get into places he really should not be able to, or the fact a camera should see him but does not is frustrating, but so minor and made up for with Elizabeth Moss’s acting, and tense direction that is works.

This feels like it could be this year’s Get Out. The perfect sci-fi/horror twist on a basic concept to turn a light on social problems is exactly what makes it work. It is a great piece of horror filmmaking that is tense, moody, and utterly creepy that it makes any space you’re in feel corrupted by something that should not be there.

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