The Invisible Man

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Elisabeth Moss in 'The Invisible Man.' (Universal Studios)
Elisabeth Moss in 'The Invisible Man.' (Universal Studios)

(Trigger warning: Abuse)


4/5 Stars


Trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy, brilliant scientist, Cecilia Kass escapes in the dead of night and disappears into hiding, aided by her sister, Emily, their childhood friend, James, and James’ teenage daughter, Sydney.

But, when Cecilia’s abusive ex-, Adrian, commits suicide and leaves her a generous portion of his vast fortune, Cecilia suspects that his death was a hoax. As a series of eerie coincidences turns lethal, threatening the lives of those she loves, her sanity begins to unravel as she tries to prove that she’s being hunted by someone no one can see.


Part of the classic monsters universe, The Invisible Man has had more comedic reimaginings in modern history, but with horror director and writer Leigh Whannell (Insidious, Saw) he returns to his psychotic roots. In the wake of the Me Too movement, this version becomes a traumatic expose on the power of abuse in relationships. While an abuser becoming invisible to stalk their victim is sci-fi, it retains an uncomfortable realness – those who leave abusive relationships will always feel like something followed them from it and shaking that paranoia is a difficult process. But more diabolical of it all, the use of clever cinematography places the audience in the seat of the stalker – and that might be its most unnerving aspect.

Cecilia manages to escape her abusive genius of a husband, but a few weeks later is told he killed himself and left her a large inheritance. But as she tries to move on with her life, something invisible in the shadows is scheming to bring her down.

What I appreciate the most about the movie is that the protagonist is never portrayed as an unreliable narrator – the audience never wonders if she’s imagining it or not, we know from the start that the threat is real. It would have been a huge disservice to real survivors of abuse by taking away Cecilia’s agency and shrouding her in doubt – one of the core ways abusers keep their control over their victims. 

But it’s no easy feat to play against an ‘imaginary’ opponent – and of course, Elizabeth Moss can do almost anything. This is the kind of horror where one person has to carry it all, and for Moss she did it with ease, tapping into a very dark part of herself. And it’s not only through her acting that The Invisible Man comes to life – sweeping camera shots, wide angles of whole rooms and close-ups of empty corridors create gut-wrenching suspense throughout. You’re constantly analysing each shot to find any indication someone is in the room – a moving chair, the brush of a curtain or even the handprint on a steaming shower. Many times nothing happens, but it never gets boring and keeps you on the edge of your seat. 

The ending of The Invisible Man might not appeal to everyone, but I don’t think it could have gone any other way. This remains a monster movie – albeit a more real and terrifying one – and while many were written generations ago symbolising a certain fear of that time, they have always morphed throughout the years to hold a mirror to the society of that time. Today, it shows the invisibility of abuse, the traumatic hold it can have on survivors and the only way to fight it is to bring it out of the shadows and into the light.



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