Universal's most recent attempt at rebooting their classic monsters went disastrously, with Tom Cruise's take on The Mummy notoriously crashing and burning at the box office. No Frankenstein with Javier Bardem. No Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Russell Crowe. And thankfully no Invisible Man with Johnny Depp. It's unlikely any of these blockbusters would have succeeded creatively. But with the financial restrictions and creative freedom offered by Blumhouse, Leigh Whannell (Upgrade) has delivered a creepy and effective new vision.
Elisabeth Moss, whose expressive eyes and coiled rage have already won her an Emmy for The Handmaid's Tale, is terrific as Cecilia, who we first see making a daring escape from her abusive boyfriend's fortress. This scene immediately and properly sets up the stakes and tension of the film. The sound design is crucial here and keeps you on the edge of your seat, where you'll be for the rest of the runtime.
Two weeks later, Cecilia is making slow progress, barely venturing out to check the mail. She's been crashing at the home of a friend (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter (Storm Reid), and growing closer to her sister (Harriet Dyer), when she gets news that her boyfriend has committed suicide, and a good chunk of his fortune will be coming her way. Moss does a spectacular job of showing us not only how free she feels knowing he's gone, but also how the money (which she had left behind) can be used to help the people she loves.
But of course he can't really be gone, not with the extremely disturbing things that keep happening, escalating each night. It starts with the gas turning up on the stove, causing a fire. Then something taking pictures of Cecilia while she sleeps. Then a mysterious illness later revealed to be caused by drugs. But when things turn violent, Cecilia quickly loses grip on reality, and Moss is an expert at selling scenes like this.
While it may seem like the trailer gave too much away, there's certainly more to the film, though perhaps too much more. At over two hours, the movie could have used a little tightening, and your mileage may vary on the extra twist and the gruesome coda. But The Invisible Man imbues its classic horror story with real-life terror, making it a must-see.