When studios and filmmakers say less is more, sometimes they say that because the funding is low or because the script/filmmaking in general doesn’t call for showing off your prime horror asset.
When it comes to The Invisible Man however…less is WAY more.
Although the script could’ve benefitted from a woman’s touch (it’s the best post Me-Too film I’ve seen from a man however) , The Invisible Man is an instant classic horror film with Elisabeth Moss at the height of her acting powers.
When trying to update a classic, filmmakers sometimes just move the plot to modern times and call it a day, keep it in the olden times without adding edge and interesting commentary, or try to make it like The Marvel Cinematic Universe (cough cough 2017’s The Mummy).
Leigh Whannell understands that horror works best as visceral experience and The Invisible Man works best on two levels of horror storytelling.
The first layer is fairly surface level: an unstoppable and unforgiving force that can kill you or anyone you love and you will never see it coming. The chills and screams from the audiences came from the fear that anything could happen at any time.
I wish the film leaned more heavily on subverting that, but I’m glad that the finished product went full in on it’s second layer…the real fear of no one believing you.
In a post Me-Too world, we are listening and helping women of abuse more often and are making progress trying to rectify a world that let abusive men thrive.
The sad part is that no matter how much progress is made, there will always be victims that won’t be heard or worse…ignored.
Elisabeth Moss fully embodies a woman that is all to real to us. One that is psychologically wrecked from a relationship that seemed doomed to consume her whole.
Not only do we feel terrified for her at every turn, we care deeply for her because we believe every nuance of her performance.
Oliver Jackson-Cohen wonderfully plays her controlling ex who may or may not have faked his death, but that’s not the scary part. The scary part is that we know how scared of him she was even when she couldn’t see him when he was listed as alive.
Even in death, he’s destroying her sanity and it’s a damn good example of how to use gaslighting in film.
Moss is my favorite working actress right now and she’s the best part of the film. Yes it’s good that Whannell found an ingenious way to update a classic and the horror set pieces are mind-blowing at times, but the film is elevated to classic status because of Moss’s instantly iconic performance.
I know she won’t be nominated for an Oscar for this, but it’s hard to ignore that some of the best performances of the past 10 years have come from horror films. The Babadook, The Loved Ones, The Sacrament, and Us are some of the many examples that show that leading actors in horror are just as good/better than those seen in every Oscars telecast.
While, the direction is sharp and very empathetic…the only noticeable flaw for me is the unrealistic relationship between Moss’s character and her sister.
The acting from Harriet Dyer as the sister is quite good, but her character feels underwritten and less fully embodied than everybody else. Even Aldis Hodge and Storm Reid who play Moss’s and Dyer’s friends, feel more real and tangible than a sister character who arguably should’ve made more of a dent.
Minor issue aside, The Invisible Man is quite frankly the best post Me-Too film Hollywood has made and it also functions perfectly as a metaphor for gaslighting.
images via Universal