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THE INVISIBLE MAN : Hitchcockian, Taut And Well Paced!


In one of the scenes in “The Invisible Man”, the protagonist Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) is staring down from the attic down the emergency ladder staring at an empty view. Restlessly, she throws white paint on the ladder and to her horror the white paint engulfs an invisible body and she screams. This classic “Bomb Under Your Chair” approach to storytelling was invented by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. He felt that the fear of the unknown is right under your nose and it’s a matter of time when you uncover it. “The Invisible Man” is a tribute to the great Hitchcockian cinema classics like “Psycho”, “Rear Window”, “Torn Curtain” where fear itself becomes the monster.

“The Invisible Man” is based on the seminal book of the same name by H.G. Wells. It’s considered as a classic and has been remade many times by well known filmmakers like John Carpenter and Paul Verhoeven. Over a dozen adaptations of the story have been done since the book was published in 1897. The first major film was “The Invisible Man” which was directed by James Whale and starred Claude Rains in 1933, a sequel was also made in 1940 starring Vincent Price. The story is very well entrenched in Hollywood history.

2020’s version of “The Invisible Man” is directed by Leigh Whannell. The films stars Elizabeth Moss and Oliver Jackson-Cohen in pivotal roles. The film is based on the HG Wells book but has a few alterations on the original idea of the book. The screenplay has been penned by Leigh Whannell himself. The film is produced by Blumhouse Productions and Universal Pictures.

The Plot Of “THE INVISIBLE MAN”

The story is set in modern day USA. Cecilia Kass (Moss) is married to a young tech billionaire Adrian Griffin (Jackson-Cohen). Cecilia lives a terrorized life as she is routinely abused by Griffin who is a sadist and a genius at the same time. It’s very difficult for her to leave this world as it has money, fame and security. But one day she gives up and runs away from her home. She sets up base with local cop James Lanier and his daughter. James is also Cecilia’s childhood buddy. Adrian who wants Cecilia back ends up committing suicide. As Cecilia comes over this, she feels that she is being tailed by an ‘invisible being’ who stalks her, beats her up. The film shows how Cecilia gathers herself and fights back!

The BLUMHOUSE touch to “ The Invisible Man”

Blumhouse which is a modern day pioneer of horror and has made a number of successful films works on a patented strategy of low budget and high quality scares. They use minimal special effects, but use super writing and intense background score to amp up the horror levels in their movies. The have produced “Paranormal Activity” series and “Insidious” series amongst other films. They also produced “Ghoul” for Netflix India with Phantom Films.

In “Invisible Man” , they have used classic horror techniques and increased the intensity of each killing in the plot. In one scene, Cecilia is sitting with her sister at an upscale restaurant when suddenly “a knife” murders her sister in front her and many people. Whannell and Blumhouse have bought the conflict of the story out in broad daylight. Having said that, the film doesn’t just use murder for elevating the tonality of the narrative. In one scene, Cecilia is having a nice time with her best friend’s daughter and suddenly a force punches the little girl in the face. She runs away to her father and is scared. The dynamics of Cecilia ‘s relationship with her best pal turns upside down after this ‘incident’. The special effects are minimal. But it’s the acting and physicality exuded by Moss as Cecilia which really grabs you by the collar.

The Performance Of Elizabeth Moss

The casting of Moss as the female hero is an outlier itself. She doesn’t look like the typical hot trophy wife of a tech billionaire in Silicon Valley. Adrian Griffin unlike his real life peers like( Evan Spiegel of Snapchat who settled for the supermodel Miranda Kerr etc) settles for someone he can relate to and more importantly he can exert control over. Elizabeth Moss looks like your average next door girl with very minimal pedigree. She is very aware and learns from her mistakes faster than most. Moss has dominated the screen more than 90% of the time but is quite appealing to the viewers. Whannell has ensured that Cecilia as a character has built her resilience and strength on her own bruises. She trusted , she was betrayed and she was backstabbed. But she does pay back in kind. Cecilia’s journey from a scared, ‘cornered’ being to an aggressive avenger is quite fascinating. Elizabeth Moss’ facial expressions in her encounters with the ‘invisible being’ are quite extraordinary. The viewer is sitting next to her and in every punch directed at her is immersed into the moment. Moss’s submissive self as an actor seen in “The Handmaid’s Tale” is seen to best effect. She is the main asset of this film.

The Direction of Leigh Whannell

Whannell is a proven writer of the horror genre. He has earlier directed Insidious 3, Saw and Upgrade. He has clearly been inspired by the HG Wells story but he has added his dash of quirkiness to it. The camera stays with Cecilia most of the time as she moves from one obstacle to the other. The production design, shooting locations amplify the storytelling. The duration of the film is 125 minutes but its packed with highs and lows. Whannell uses the many advantages of the ‘invisibility’ factor. The reveal can be late but people still hold on as curiosity is intact. There are few characters in the film as a whole and I think that was a superlative decision. The viewer feels the perspective of most of the cast.

Final Verdict

This movie deserves an 8 out 10 as it packs the punch of the Hitchcock storytelling and yet marries itself into the horror universe of Blumhouse films.

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PS. This is my 100th review and I would like to thank each and every one of you for your consistent support and encouragement. It means a lot!

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