The Invisible Man stars Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, and Storm Reid and was directed by Leigh Whannell. Based on H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel of the same name and loosely remaking the 1933 Universal Monster movie of the same name, this film focuses on Cecilia Kass, played by Elisabeth Moss. After escaping from her abusive boyfriend, a series of strange occurrences begin and Cecilia soon realizes that her ex has devised a way to be invisible. This is one of those films that’s both exactly what I expected it to be and also somehow very different. And I know that sounds really contradictory, but let me explain.
Based on the trailer, I thought this looked like a very good and interesting take on The Invisible Man story – which it was. It seemed like it would take a far more psychological route than the original, but I had no idea just how intense it was gonna get. And I’m not just talking about the classic horror elements.
This movie had a story and characters that are far more relevant to today’s society than you’d ever anticipate from a movie like this. Although it shares its name with the 1933 Universal Monster classic, The Invisible Man is much better classified as a reimagining of the story rather than a remake. Cause other than the very core of the premise and the Invisible Man’s last name, the two films bear almost no resemblance to each other. That 1933 version is my second favorite of the classic Universal Monster movies and the Invisible Man character is my favorite of the Universal Monsters. All of the other Universal Monsters have some sort of redeeming quality to them. They feel remorse for their actions or there’s some other reason that you can empathize with their characters.
The original Invisible Man isn’t like that. I’d argue that he’s the most monstrous of those monsters cause he does all of his terrorizing and murdering for fun. There’s this kind of irreverence to him that sets him apart. So, that character is the obvious choice for an updated reimagining. He’s evil through and through, but this movie strips away that sort of oddly lighthearted tone and turns it into a much darker psychological thriller.
It also shifts the focus of the story. Although there were certainly other characters in the original, the Invisible Man was definitely the main character. He was the one we followed throughout the movie. In this 2020 version, he’s the monster, but not the focus. Instead, Cecilia, his ex-girlfriend is the main character and we follow her story and sympathize with her as a character. And that aspect is where this movie really surprised me. The trailer definitely implied that Adrian Griffin was a controlling boyfriend, but this movie focuses in on the traumas of domestic abuse far far more than I expected it to. It’s not just something that gets casually referenced a few times as a plot device. It is the central thematic core of the movie. And it feels uncomfortably realistic.
Elisabeth Moss does an excellent job in the role, somehow capturing the fear and psychological trauma as well as the eventual satisfying strength of a woman overcoming her abuser. It’s definitely not a character or storyline that we see in movies all that often, but I think it was the perfect fit for this movie. But, it’s important to note that this isn’t exclusively a domestic abuse psychological drama. It’s also an extremely effective psychological thriller. Some people might find it scary and consider it horror, but this was straight-up thriller for me.
The tension was insane. Some of that comes from the story and the whole gaslighting subplot, but a lot of it is cause of the cinematography and sound design. There are so many long, tracking shots where we’re following Cecilia, but they’re incredibly well-done. And they’re usually accompanied by minimal sound and no score, which has you constantly and anxiously holding your breath. This movie takes its time to build up the tension, so when you’re watching these scenes, you’re just waiting for what you think is gonna happen which isn’t always the case in this movie.
I was impressed by some of the twists and shocking moments in this movie and judging by some of the dramatic reactions I heard, the rest of my audience was too. So, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about this movie, but not really that much time talking about the Invisible Man himself. Again, he’s definitely not the focal character in this movie, but when he is on screen (or more accurately, not on screen) he definitely shines. The cause of his invisibility is quite different than that of the original and it does leave open some minor inconsistencies in the story, but the invisibility scenes are really well-done and tense. I’ve always thought that the effects in the 1933 version were really ahead of their time, but the scenes in this one are pretty incredible.
There are some very creepy moments of invisibility-induced psychological torture and then you’ve got the invisible fight scenes which are just really tense watches. It’s a risk to adapt a classic story like this, but I think Whannell very effectively updated this story to make it as tense and unsettling in today’s society as the original was in 1933. Alright let’s talk about the pros and cons. Pro number one is the unique approach to the story. Even as a big fan of the 1933 original, I really like the direction they took this film.
It has the basic bones of the premise, but has modernized it to craft a different tone and story. It’s no longer about a mad scientist trying to play God. Instead, it’s about the impacts that a narcissistic, controlling abuser can have on his victim. It’s not a storyline that I expected to be central to the plot, but it’s actually very in-line with the classic Invisible Man character and really works here. The second pro is the effective tension. This is a tight, edge-of-your seat thriller that constantly has you anxious about what might happen.
The long, quiet shots have you holding your breath and the framing of dark doorways and red herrings keeps you transfixed. It may not be a classically scary movie, but the realism of the non-sci-fi situations combined with some excellent performances keeps you uncomfortable and tense throughout the runtime. On the con side, there are a number of minor issues here that are present in most modern horror films, but the biggest problem has got to be the illogical inconsistencies. Most of these things are left vague enough in the story that you could probably come up with an explanation that might make sense, but they were still noticeable to me and stood out as odd in the moment.
Things like Adrian’s ability to travel extremely long distances very quickly or the seeming randomness behind who he kills and who he allows to survive. Or his ability to be very quiet while invisible – something that really bothered my friend when we saw this, so I had to mention that on her behalf. Again, none of these things majorly affected the story, but they were a bit odd and seem to be the result of sloppy writing or, more likely, pretty significant cutting of the movie during editing. Before I give you my rating and recommendations, I want to remind you that if you’re interested in buying The Invisible Man or any of the other films I’ve mentioned today, I do have affiliate links to all of them in the description below.
I get a small commission from anything you buy using one of my links, so I’d really appreciate if you’d use them if you’re in the market for any of these movies. I’m gonna give The Invisible Man 3.5 out of 5 paws. I thought this was a really unique and effective take on the classic Invisible Man story. It’s a more modern retelling that shifts the focus of the story, but still crafts an incredibly tense and compelling narrative. I would recommend The Invisible Man to fans of grounded psychological thrillers. I know that might sound a little weird considering the sci-fi aspects of the Invisible Man character, but the whole story’s still rooted in this sense of reality, especially when it comes to the character interactions.
This is a twisty story, but all manifests in a psychologically-traumatic gaslighting form that’s pretty unique for the genre. If you liked The Invisible Man, I would recommend the original 1933 Invisible Man. The story and tone are quite different, but it’s a bit closer to H.G. Wells’ novel and is definitely one of the better classic Universal Monster movies. If you liked the psychological aspects of this film, you might want to check out the classic psychological film: Gaslight. It served as the origin of the term gaslighting and despite not having any science fiction elements, very closely follows the basic central themes of this film. And if you liked the action, you should watch Leigh Whannell’s last movie: Upgrade.
That is much more action-oriented than this film was, but you can see the stylistic similarities between the two films, especially during the hospital fight sequence. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen The Invisible Man? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: What’s your favorite remake that takes a completely different approach to the story than the original? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.