At their very best Blumhouse horrors are timely affairs, offering cultural relevant themes paired with expertly crafted chills. Think The Purge series blossoming into a potent metaphor for Trump's
The most impressive switch in The Invisible Man is focusing in on the monster's victim. Proceedings open with a taut scene as Cecilia near-silently escapes her abusive partner's home. It is a bold sequence, immediately highlighting the technical prowess that has gone into the look and sound of the film (a soundscape made up of crashing waves and subtle audio shifts couples with an open framing that highlights the space around its characters, giving the film a voyeuristic edge). From here the narrative follows Cecilia as her partner's death is announced and she then becomes tormented by an unseen presence that slowly unravels her life and cuts her off from the people around her. Domestic abuse and gaslighting is front-and-centre in one of the most relevant horrors of recent years.
The Invisible Man feels like a creative coup for director Leigh Whannell. The co-creator of the horror franchises Saw and Insidious, Whannell proved an adept director with fabulous sci-fi fare Upgrade. Here he reshapes and modernises the Universal monster with adept skill. The craft behind The Invisible Man is impressive, the unsettling soundscape and score marrying with cinematography that plays with the gaze through which we are seeing proceedings. Skilful use of negative space heightens tension here, with the camera lingering unnervingly on empty corridors and wandering off characters to the area around them. The audience searches for hints of the invisible threat Cecilia faces with, at times, minimal shifts in surroundings causing frights. The Invisible Man is a horror that relies less on jump scares and more on the ever-increasing tension as its protagonist faces an increasingly desperate situation.
So much of the impact here comes from Elisabeth Moss' committed turn. Moss is often the only person on screen and must convey a degree of threat that, at least early on, seems entirely absent. It is a subtle portrayal of the impacts of domestic trauma, with Moss capable of shifting the mood of a scene. It joins a number of exceptional performances in recent horrors, and will again likely be ignored for awards consideration. Her relationship with several of the characters is endearing, adding greater impact as events turn darker and darker. Whannell effectively shapes lived-in characters, with terrific turns from Harriet Dyer, Aldis Hodge and Storm Reid who make up Cecilia's support network. They bring a warmth to the first half that contrasts nicely with the building terror. And although barely present, Oliver Jackson-Cohen makes a satisfyingly odious villain. But really The Invisible Man belongs to his victim and Moss stuns in the role.
This film is first and foremost a B-movie. Early scenes of tension in a domestic setting give way to kinetic sci-fi action (there is a scene in the second half that offers a joyful, tension-relieving cathartic rush) before we end up in almost-pulpy thriller territory. All of these shifts in genre are effective, even if the film feels a tad overlong. But where the impact lies is in what The Invisible Man is about. As with Get Out, it uses the genre to focus on a trauma shared by a large portion of the population, one that cinema often struggles to articulate. Particularly given the cultural moment we are in, this feels feels fresh, relevant and impactful in the themes it explores. Blumhouse and Leigh Whannell, once again, show themselves to be the very best creatives in the genre, with yet more proof of the brilliance of Elisabeth Moss.