The Invisible Man is back! Or is he?
Elisabeth Moss stars in this retelling of The Invisible Man story. It’s the same old theme set in a contemporary world of electronic invisibility technology, surveillance cameras, cell phones and ride sharing. In short, it’s Hollywood’s attempt to make what’s old new again.
She plays a victimized prisoner, the unhappy ex-girlfriend of one of the world’s leading experts in optics. She plots an elaborate escape reminiscent of Julia Roberts in Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) only to discover weeks later that her hateful ex-boyfriend has committed suicide and left her a small fortune. Or so she thinks.
As things go in movies like this, he may or may not actually be dead. She wonders if this is some elaborate scheme on his part to take his abusive and torturous behavior to a whole other level. All she thinks she can be sure of is that he is still alive in the form of an unseen presence determined to make her life a complete living hell.
This latest horror tale from Blumhouse Productions (known for movies like Happy Death Day, Halloween, Ma, Truth or Dare and Get Out) is, at best, occasionally scary and gory, but in the end, a disappointment. Granted, there are a few scenes that work, though you’ve seen them all before in other movies. The problem is the story stretches far too far, past the point of believability. Rather than be content with one surprise, twist ending, it tries for two and strays into the realm of implausibility and absurdity in the process.
The original Invisible Man movie (based on the novel by H.G. Wells) was made at Universal Studios back in 1933. It was directed by James Whale (the director of Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff). The original version co-starred the acclaimed actor Claude Rains, and Gloria Stuart (who appeared as the old woman in James Cameron’s Titanic) and it went on to become a horror classic. To this day, it is a marvel of vintage Hollywood special effects, well worth checking out.
Universal Studios was the horror movie factory in Hollywood back in the early 30s with a lineup that included Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man and the Invisible Man. It owned the rights to all these beloved horror characters and had plans to revitalize the their various stories and reintroduce them to contemporary audiences beginning with the Tom Cruise big-budget remake of The Mummy in 2017. It flopped and Universal applied the brakes.
But now comes The Invisible Man retold as a story for the #metoo generation. It is a story about freedom from emotional imprisonment and domestic violence. In short, a modern day story of revenge in the age of Harvey Weinstein.
It would seem that Elisabeth Moss is making a career out of playing characters suffering some form of indignation. Admittedly, she brings a mix of ordinariness, vulnerability and pent-up outrage that fits the bill for movies like this. She turns in a strong performance as a woman with what appears to be a preposterous claim that no one believes to be true. Note that this dilemma is a staple of horror movies—the character running around trying to convince the world that evil is afoot, all the while appearing to be a raving lunatic in the process. Make no mistake, Elizabeth Moss is that character in The Invisible Man.
Ultimately, in this movie and all movies like it, we want to see how all this is resolved and how order and justice are restored.
And that’s where we get to the biggest problem, when the final credits finally roll at the end of The Invisible Man. Following a list of plot elements that just don’t add up (like why no one can sense the presence of someone who is physically present in a room despite being invisible) the movie rolls out a final climactic scene that is meant to make your head reel. And you could argue that it does just that; the only problem being that the head reeling is the result of disbelief rather than shock. It’s a moment that for all means and purposes just could not have logically happened. Not the way that its presented. And that becomes the movie’s crowning disappointment. It just doesn’t make sense.
The Invisible Man is a movie, like so many similar movies these days that are content to string together stock elements of other movies and hope that you don’t –forgive the pun--see through the clumsy slight of hand.