In 2017 Universal Pictures decided to try and make their classic horror movies of old marketable again to the general public by making an action-orientated Mummy movie with Tom Cruise… It went down in flames, trying to mimic the business model of Marvel and DC. In 2020 Universal studios tried again but decided just to make an honest to god normal movie with the focus being on modernising an old horror character instead of making them marketable to cynical extents. That film was The Invisible Man.
After escaping her abusive ex-boyfriend, Cecillia (Elizabeth Moss) is relieved to find that he was found dead in his home shortly after. But after experiencing strange occurrences targetted at her, she becomes maniacally obsessed with the idea he has somehow become invisible and is stalking her. When it is revealed to be true, Cecillia must engage in a physical battle against him and a physiological one against the world that now considers her insane.
I found the first three-quarters of this movie kept me on my toes, were very tense and gave me that feeling of “I can’t take my eyes away”. A lot of mainstream horror movies – including those made by Leigh Whannell (this movie’s writer/director) – rely a lot on jumpscares and shock value to get a reaction out of the audience. That isn’t what this film is. It’s first half is very slow, with long and lingering shots making you question whether or not the Invisible Man is in frame or not. A lot of emphases is put on the paranoia of not knowing if he’s watching the main character or chilling out elsewhere, and his established obsession with her and their abusive past make the dynamic between the two more than that of, say Jason and some kids at a campsite. The stakes are personal, like a Halloween movie is whenever Jamie-Lee Curtis is in one, but without a lot of the tongue-in-cheek elements of a traditional slasher. It takes itself very seriously and, as I say, it worked very well for the first three-quarters.
But then, about half-way through the third act of the film, there is a climactic showdown in a hospital parking lot where you think “oh wow, the movie’s going to end now”… And it just goes on for thirty more minutes. In these thirty minutes, there is a plot twist where the Invisible Man dies and is revealed to be an entirely different person to who we thought he was. But then the main character doesn’t believe it and goes on this rushed mission, that could have filled a sequel, to kill who she truly believes the Invisible Man to be, and then the film ends. It wants to be ambiguous as to whether she was right to kill him, or if he was innocent of being the Invisible Man. But it’s just stupid. There are established to be at least two Invisible Man suits (a piece of technology that makes the wearer invisible) in the film, and the main character knows this. There is no reason for her, or the police who searched the home the Invisible Man, to not know there are two suits and thus two Invisible Men. But the film acts like it really is up the air.
It’s a shame because in that parking lot, after a rather impressive action scene that puts a lot of action movies to shame, the film does feel like it’s going to end. And it would have been a good end; The Invisible Man has a damaged suit and is occasionally popping in and out of visibility. It’s raining and he can kind of be seen by the rain moving around him if you squint enough. And I just thought to myself that the perfect end would be if Cecillia just turned in a random direction with her gun, aimed it, and said something to the effect of “you can’t hide from me anymore” before shooting him in the head while invisible would have beenn great.
The whole film had built up to that ending; everything about the dynamic between the two was how he knew her better than everyone else, which is essentially just something he says to her to keep her under his control – it’s a form of emotional control and abuse. So for her to turn that on him and be able to predict him without the need to see where he was, was the ending it felt like, for a good 90 minutes, this film way going for. But that doesn’t happen and it turns a pretty good movie into one that’s just decent at best.
Would I recommend The Invisible Man? Sure. I’m not enthusiastic about this film or anything, but as far as horror goes it’s decent. Ultimately there is a lot more good in this film than there is bad, but if the idea of being disappointed by a lacklustre ending ruins the experience of a film for you… Skip.