The Dark Universe is dead – long live the Dark Universe.
Nearly three years after whatever the hell Tom Cruise’s The Mummy reboot was, Universal has teamed up with Blumhouse to make an ACTUALLY frightening horror film starring a classic monster – with an appropriately modern twist. Director Leigh Whannell (Upgrade) crafts the terrifying tale of a woman (Elisabeth Moss) haunted by her abusive ex who has faked his death and has somehow become invisible. Cecilia is a woman against the world, as her friends and family turn on her as she seemingly descends into madness… but is she crazy, or is this Adrian’s plan?
The Invisible Man opens with Cecilia making a daring nighttime escape from her tech millionaire boyfriend’s oceanside estate (the movie was filmed in Sydney but takes place in San Francisco). Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) punches through Cecilia’s sister’s car window, establishing how desperately he wishes to keep her prisoner. Cecilia recovers at the home of her friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid, who has gotten so tall since A Wrinkle in Time!). Two weeks after her escape, she learns that Adrian has killed himself and she has been named in his substantial will. Cecilia isn’t convinced, especially when strange things start to happen around her, and her laptop seems to have been hacked. The audience learns long before she does: Cecilia is being watched by someone invisible.
The unambiguously invisible man hurts the flabby midsection of the film, which is far too long and makes it even more agonizing. Every single one of Cecilia’s safeguards is stripped from her, and while Elisabeth Moss is in excellent form as usual, it is horrifying to watch no one believe her about the phantom. The original trailer seemed to show the entire film’s plot, but I am happy to report there are far more twists than it seems. The Invisible Man is best seen in a tense crowd also overwhelmed by the bass-heavy score. The special effects are great, even with the film’s low budget, as they are mostly used to portray something you can’t see. Leigh Whannell recycles a lot of his fun camera techniques from Upgrade during the thrilling climax, adding some visual pop to a barren hospital hallway.
The Invisible Man makes subtext text, but doesn’t lose impact in doing so. Escaping an abusive relationship becomes even more monstrous and horrifying when he makes you feel like you’re never alone. Elisabeth Moss never fails at selling the nightmare. If this is the start of some new iteration of the Dark Universe, it is a great start. But hopefully they give the Mummy a couple more years to rest.
The Invisible Man
dir. Leigh Whannell
Opens everywhere Friday 2/28 (though the Hassle recommends the Somerville Theatre or your local independently-owned multiplex)