Horror has always been home to female-driven stories, or at least female protagonists. Classics of the genre like Halloween, Alien or even Scream have women at the center of their stories, however their lens of what is scary is not typically uniquely feminine. The Invisible Man not only focuses specifically on timely female issues, but it also makes horrifyingly clear the structural barriers that contribute to women’s, and victims of all kinds, struggles in abusive relationships. It is a bleak and often unrelenting movie that does not pull punches. However, it is that approach to storytelling that makes the film sophisticated in its handling of these issues and impactful in its execution.
A reinterpretation of H.G. Wells classic novella of the same name, director Leigh Whannell’s vision of the story is rooted in fear of the unseen. The story centers around Cecilia, played by Elizabeth Moss, as she begins to escape an abusive relationship with millionaire scientist, Adrian. After getting away from Adrian, Cecilia begins to breathe easy, before beginning to suspect Adrian might not be gone at all.
Elizabeth Moss absolutely carries the film, and the script demands a lot of her character. So much of her performance is subtle but recognizable fear and suspicion. Her situation is almost unbearably frustrating to comprehend, but that’s one of what makes the film so special.
Whannell masterfully creates tension by keeping so much of his frames empty, suggesting the presence of an unseen force around every empty corner or on an empty chair. It is a simple but effective method of showing us exactly the type of fear that Cecilia is facing. That fear moves to isolation as Adrian turns everyone in Cecilia’s life against her, as many real-life abusers do to keep control over their partners.
It is astute and clever interpretations of women’s issues that put The Invisible Man up and over the typical monster movie fair and into classic territory. It feels like a film that is demanding to be seen and contemplated long after leaving the theater. – 4/5 stars