Review: The Invisible Man

Far removed from H.G. Wells 1897 book that it is based upon

Elisabeth Moss (center, foreground) as Cecilia Kass in "The Invisible Man," written and directed by Leigh Whannell.

The best “new” villain since Hannibal Lecter is actually – well you know what it is – a remake of the 1992 travesty Memoirs of an Invisible Man starring Chevy Chase in his “state of molecular flux,” or a remake of the 1933 Claude Rains The Invisible Man. In 1940 there was Vincent Price in the Invisible Man Returns …and on and on it goes…the Invisible Woman…you get the picture. Well, this 2020 drama/horror flick is nothing like the original and far removed from Chevy Chase. To me, this is Audrey Hepburn’s Wait Until Dark with the lights on.

Where Hepburn was a blind woman chasing an “invisible man” around her apartment in New York City, vicious Alan Arkin in search of drugs, Elisabeth Moss in the 2020 Invisible Man is a woman with sight who also cannot see the man who is terrorizing her.

Far removed from H.G. Wells 1897 book that it is based upon, though the technology described in that book from 123 years ago is still the thread that connects, one headline (I have not read any other reviews yet) calls it an Invisible Man for the #metoo movement. Interesting that it appears on the same week as Harvey Weinstein’s conviction, and maybe that was planned?

In a truly terrifying opening – which some might feel is labored – Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) is trying to flee breathtakingly handsome British model Oliver Jackson-Cohen, who is Adrian Griffin, the brilliant scientist who creates the light-bending technology to turn himself or others invisible. Stop right there…you know that’s a cue for many possible sequels, just as the Claude Rains 1933 film spawned. Or so Universal/Comcast hopes.

Note to Cecilia Kass, when you live in a home that is on the water with stunning visuals from your bedroom and living room, and something drop-dead gorgeous is in your bed every night, stop with the whining and be a loving wife. Sheesh, the guy is a multi-millionaire genius and Kass sets into motion a series of events endangering all the people in her life. Selfish is what I call it!

Aldis Hodge plays James Lanier – a childhood friend of the alleged “victim” according to Wikipedia. That’s odd, it feels like he’s the love interest of Cecilia’s sister, Emily Kass (played by Harriet Dyer.) Hodge couldn’t try to be Will Smith more if he tried. The mannerisms, the voice, it’s like a tribute band mimicking Mick Jagger and feels like a Will Smith stand-in emulating a well-known actor. Hodge was previously in Hidden Figures, the NASA film about African American female mathematicians while Jackson-Cohen, the Invisible Man, performed in The Raven (Edgar Allan Poe) from 2012 and a Dracula television series 2013-2014 as Jonathan Harker. That’s some horror film street cred for these not yet ultra-famous actors and the fact that the film uses those “bubbling under” is to its credit (sure, Emmy awards and Mad Men do account for something, but these are not Tom Cruise, Anthony Hopkins, Eddie Murphy household names at this point in time.) It’s that these players are relatively unknown that also makes for a tense drama with some very scary moments a la the aforementioned Wait Until Dark.

Universal/Comcast is now digging more methodically into the classic 1930’s horror films vaults. The 2017 Mummy with Tom Cruise lost close to a hundred million or so according to Wikipedia, and the retelling of these popular films from ninety years ago is from a different dimension when compared to Claude Rains, Vincent Price, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff’s reign of terror.

This film also mirrors Craig Berko’s murderous role in 1999’s The Thirteenth Floor where actress Gretchen Mol was caught “in the Matrix.” The Matrix emerging in March of 1999, the very similar Thirteenth Floor in April (Denmark) and May (USA) of 1999. Based on a 1973 German TV film, World on a Wire, again according to Wikipedia. Be it, Audrey Hepburn, in Wait Until Dark, Gretchen Mol in 13th floor or Elisabeth Moss in this new feature, it is the age-old damsels in distress theme dipped in science fiction.

That being said, all of the above were quite entertaining. The twist here is the psychological drama that keeps one guessing. Yes, there were a couple of holes in the plot, but overall it’s quite satisfying film experience. What Invisible Man does deliver is one of the most powerful dark dramas in a long, long while.