Thursday, February 27, 2020

Blumhouse’s The Invisible Man

This invisible man is serious about invisibility, so he doesn’t mess around with hats, goggles, and bandages. That is rather unfortunate for the woman he stalks so stealthily. Fans will miss the iconic imagery of the 1930s Universal monster franchise, but they should still appreciate the tension of Blumhouse’s modernized take on The Invisible Man, directed by Leigh Whannel, which opens tomorrow nationwide.

After careful planning, Cecilia Kass finally manages to escape from her cruel and controlling lover, the fabulously wealthy Adrian Griffin. He made his fortune through his breakthroughs in optics, so you know what that means. Shortly thereafter, Griffin suspiciously commits suicide. At least it is suspicious to Kass and us. Sure enough, an invisible entity is soon tormenting her. He is especially vicious, devising ways to isolate Kass from her support system, including her platonic cop friend James Lanier and his daughter Sydney, with whom she has been crashing.

Forget all the hype about Invisible Man being a #metoo movie. That’s just lazy marketing hype. Yes, Kass definitely must overcome Griffin’s abusive and manipulative behavior, but this is really an old fashioned “woman in jeopardy” thriller (this a term we really use in publishing), raised to the power of one hundred. Despite the affection we all have for the disembodied raincoat gags of the 1933 films, the invisibility special effects this time around are quite impressive—and Griffin’s attacks are notably violent. Indeed, Whannel and the tech team fully live up to the frightening implications of an invisible monster.

Whannel’s nearly-in-name-only adaptation of Wells’ Invisible Man also shifts the focus from the unseen mad man, to his victim (or would be victim), Kass. Fortunately, Elisabeth Moss is up to the challenge of carrying the picture and playing complicated attack scenes by herself. Moss is terrific portraying her fear, alienation, vulnerability, and resiliency, which is a lot of emotional terrain to cover. Even though it comes in a pure genre film, this might be Moss’s best performance to date.

Aldis Hodge’s portrayal of Lanier is quite charismatic and grounded. Plus, it is cool to see his character wearing a Prestige Records t-shirt (a vintage jazz label—we prefer Blue Note’s ethics and aesthetics, but there is no denying they waxed some classic sessions).

Blumhouse’s Invisible Man is a suspenseful ride, right from the start. Somehow, Whannel and cinematographer Stefan Duscio makes shots of nothing feel like something—something menacing. It looks great, but Benjamin Wallfisch’s portentous score should have been cranked down a bit in the sound mix. Nevertheless, the final product is quite a successful reboot/remake/re-conception. It certainly puts The Mummy to shame, but most films do. Recommended for fans of dark suspense and Blumhouse, The Invisible Man opens tomorrow (2/28) across the country, including the AMC Empire in New York.