The Invisible Man*
Updated: Mar 20, 2020
With a current culture reboot, The Invisible Man more accurately qualifies as “The Invisible Man’s Girlfriend” by taking a twist on the H.G. Wells classic novel. Instead of following the book and original Nineteen-thirties cinematic take on a story where the title character views his invisibility as a means to rule the world, this reboot explores another movie-influenced concept called gaslighting. That term comes from a play and film called Gaslight, where the bad guy tried to drive his lady insane through trickery. Portraying that kind of fear proves a treasure chest for performers, and Ingrid Bergman won her first of three Oscars for Gaslight. With its focus on actress Elisabeth Moss, The Invisible Man gives its star her own Mother Lode of acting opportunities by taking gaslighting to scary extremes. A Golden Globe winner known for strong work in Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale, Moss specializes in characters who express themselves through body language and facial expressions as much as dialogue. Playing the tormented girlfriend Cecilia, Moss shows fear from The Invisible Man’sstart by fleeing an abusive, controlling boyfriend. His suicide should abate those fears, but she and we audience members know better. After all, some of us saw that Nineteen Thirty-Three version of The Invisible Man, which makes it into the pantheon of classic horror characters presented by Universal Studios. Though influenced by the earlier film, Writer-Director Leigh Whannell reworks outdated elements and comes up with a surprisingly relevant take on the powers provided by invisibility. Yet he stays true to the oldest and most important part of horror, the realization that simple situations provide some of the biggest fears—a creaky board, a whoosh of air, a disappearing object. Special effects help too, but the invisible man and his movie work best because his girlfriend shows fear and passes it on to the audience for genuinely scary moments. But, on a personal note, I feel some loss with this new Invisible Man, who goes unseen because of a specialized, skintight black suit that plays optical tricks. It might make a decent Halloween costume, but I mourn the diffusion of one of my childhood staples, when I could just wrap my face in gauze, put on a fedora and sunglasses and call it good to go on a night of trick or treating.
* Theaters closed for new releases but this is available now on Twitter