THE MOVIE GUY — Contemporary themes disappear at the end of Invisible Man
Published 12:05 am Friday, February 28, 2020
While I am a fan of the Universal horror films from the 1930s, I freely acknowledge that these old monster movies can be too campy for contemporary audiences. That is especially true with The Invisible Man, which is little more than the silly story of a guy who turns invisible and then goes crazy.
It’s not exactly the stuff of nightmares.
So, kudos to writer/director Leigh Whannell for turning this creaky old story into a contemporary exploration of female empowerment in the face of toxic masculinity. I feel safe in stating that H.G. Wells probably didn’t have this take in mind when he wrote this back in 1897.
In this very modernized film update, Elisabeth Moss stars as Cecilia, a woman who just wants to get away from her abusive boyfriend (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). The movie opens with a crackerjack escape sequence that immediately ratchets up the tension as well as gives the audience ample reason to cheer on our abused-but-resourceful heroine.
Cecilia gets away. The problem is that her boyfriend is a tech genius who has been working on a top-secret project. Is it possible that he has developed a suit that makes the wearer invisible? The entire world thinks that the boyfriend committed suicide after the split, but Cecilia can’t seem to shake the feeling that he might still be alive and using his tech gadgets in order to get revenge on her because she dared to leave him.
Unexplainable accidents begin to happen, and Cecilia has a difficult time convincing her friends that somebody is setting her up. The audience knows that she’s being tormented by this unseen man, but her friends and family just think that she’s going crazy.
It’s a surprisingly zeitgeisty opening to an otherwise disposable film. Sadly, it doesn’t last. It’s not long before the film doubles down on its horror/thriller trappings. “The Invisible Man” slips into simple genre mode, providing basic thrills but losing the contemporary issue focus that made the film so interesting at the beginning.
Moss does a great job in this role, but after so many years in The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s a variation on a character she can now do in her sleep. Still, it’s a credit to her acting ability that she can keep the audience firmly invested in her success even as the film devolves into a simple fright flick.
The rest of the cast pales in comparison. To be fair, the boyfriend simply isn’t seen enough, for obvious reasons, to have a decent chance a turning in a realistic performance.
Ultimately, The Invisible Man returns to its monster movie roots. It’s an okay fright flick with a superb central performance by Elisabeth Moss. It’s just too bad that it didn’t stay with its #MeToo theme long enough to make this into a truly great contemporary thriller.
Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week in The Port Arthur News and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.