The Invisible Man

Review: The Invisible Man

28 Feb 20

Gets into your head

The Geets:

The trailer for this movie already had me captivated and impatiently awaiting its theatrical release. Upon watching this movie my mind was completely blown by the perfectly progressing narrative, the subtleties of scares, the disturbing depiction of domestic abuse, and the amazing acting performances by the actors who play Cecilia and Adrian. This movie alone transcends the homogenised boundaries of contemporary Horror by exploring more grounded notions of humanity which elevate terror to greater heights than do the fear of the supernatural, monsters and aliens.

Leigh Whannell (Co-creator of the Saw franchise) has certainly outdone himself with this directorial masterpiece which perfectly illustrates the inner machinations of psychological, emotional and physical domestic abuse. In addition, the creative input of weaving these disturbingly profound elements of domestic abuse into a Horror framework is a recipe for success. Not only is it appreciable as a stand-alone Horror masterpiece but brings to light about what really happens behind the curtains of a seemingly superficial domestic relationship.

The Director intellectually captures the emphasis of invisibility not only through the invisible man (who represents Cecilia's abusive ex) but further implying the pure brutality of a toxic relationship can be misinterpreted by society, especially when such convictions are presented vocally. This is the invisible nature of such profound acts that enables the abuser to continue his sadistic art of manipulation as the prey realises more and more how vulnerable her situation is and her inability to advocate for security.

Cecilia's abusive relationship with the successful business owner, Adrian, propels her to escape from her captor in hopes of finding security and peace of mind. His manipulative strategies have enabled him to gain complete control over all of her senses, including what she can do, at the same time blaming her for his convictions. The tall, unbreachable psychological walls have left her imprisoned in a continually degrading morale, seclusion and in a constant state of panic and fear. After she successfully escapes her abuser we see her dealing with the aftermath of 'chronic' abuse as she desperately tries to interweave herself into a normative social fabric. This post-traumatic relapse and the constant thought that he can still haunt her from beyond the grave sets the perfect scene for the impending horror that awaits. What follows is an even greater plunge into madness and losing grips with reality. The real horror lies in this alone, and the scenes of extreme gore are only an icing on the cake.

The following sequences depicts Adrian's disturbingly methodical manoeuvring as he re-ingratiates himself into her personal space, initially making his presence known subtly. The subtleties of the scares are so perfectly timed with palpable tension build up that the Horror energy generated is profitable. It definitely strays as further away from generic Horror clichés instead relying on maximally utilising the environment to generate the desired terror. From subtle creaking of floor boards, breathing, increasing the stove heat or removing the blankets, the invisible entity makes its presence know in every single scene, as well as indicating its sinister intentions for Cecilia. The troubled Cecilia is quick to piece together seemingly haunting experiences as signs of her abusive experiences, cleverly indicating that Adrian is back from the dead to haunt her. The resourcefulness and 'Final Girl' depiction of Elizabeth Moss as this character is a beautiful thing to watch unfold before our eyes. Her performance harks back to the historically surprising maturity of the stereotypical 80s 'final girl' from the lonely, repressed girl to becoming fearless of her assailant. Cecilia similarly depicts this transition, however earlier in this movie, showing just how well-versed she is in identifying the unique sense of Adrian's strategic abuses.

It is even absurdly beautiful to see her constantly dealing with this malignant trauma in the face of an unseen entity. Moss delivers the most humanistic performance possible, physically and emotionally enlightening the visual screen with her traumatic scars of abuse. We continually root for her to seek help from this brutal force, yet her psychological scars lead her to strangely inject herself back into dangerously familiar environments where the threat is very much potent. One would perceive themselves running as far away from the threat, yet the chronicity of mental abuse can alter one's cognitive function oftentimes affecting decision making.

With a very subliminal tone initially we think and feel that this movie will progress slowly and build up the suspense gradually, however, the tone and mood shifts constantly and abruptly, something that leaves us 'surprised' by the ensuing terror unfolding. The subtleties of the presence edging closer to the victim is juxtaposed by scenes of violent gore, which helps maintain the fine balance in this film as well as manipulate our adrenal gland secretions through oscillating between these highs and lows of psychological scares.

Nevertheless, this movie doesn't seem to lose its touch with our senses as the 2-hour screen time didn't seem to bore the most casual fans. I was completely hooked by the narrative, compelled to invest as much thought into this deranged sociopathic, narcissistic psyche so I could feel the same fear that she did. In order to feel terrified one must understand the inner mechanics of terror, and this movie did just that, utilising every facet of this unconventional niche and creating terror which is not only visually scary but may remind us of past horrors.

As we are bombarded with the brutal and psychological acts of this monster it is only fitting to embrace a more subtle and equally disturbing final act, one where the abuser is present in the flesh. It is in this scene alone that we realise the pure mastery of manipulation and impenetrability of Adrian as he denies any culpability for past actions. This scene steals the show, pulsating terror to such extents as to acquire a glimpse into the core issues of this toxic relationship. Many people may undermine this scene for its overt simplicity and poor execution, however, I would otherwise disagree. It in fact eels even more horrifying than the rest of the movie. It shows the highest form of abuse, far away from the physicalities of sbuse, such as the heavily implied abuse that is propounded by seemingly normal words. Adrian's dialogue is simple and non-threatening on the surface, but it speaks volumes to the conglomeration of all of his sadistic artforms, something that only Cecilia is fully aware of.

The reason why this movie succeeds in effectively terrifying its viewers is not by its overly explicit scenes of violence but the culmination of all the different angles from which terror can be induced. In the end, the real terror lies in pure simplicity of dialogue, something creates an even more disturbing scene of palpable horror. It is the investment in this implied horror and the underlying notions of inhumanity in the presence of humanity that propels this film to stay in our minds way after the credits have rolled.

The Phads:

Despite the perfectly timed scares, excellent representation of a troubling societal issue, and subtle yet effective horror generated, this movie may be undermined by some flaws in script. With some questionable decisions, or shall I say, events which could be omitted instead, the movie could feel even more grounded and more disturbing to the wider audience. The striking focus on Cecilia and Adrian, and their toxic relationship, is something that captivated my attention from the start to finish. However, a major plot twist with further characters intervening only confounded the final product to a lesser degree. Overthinking of the script may by creatively ineffective, but this movie still stays well balanced nevertheless.

Instead of the interwoven nature of subtle and overt scares I was expecting a more intellectually driven narrative, one where the scenes of terror build up to a heart-pounding climax. This could have helped polish the final product a bit more, not that it needs too much fine tuning. Alternatively, there were some scenes with too much exposition. As a devout fan of ambiguity propounding horror I was, at times, losing a sense of realism due to constant exposition of situations early on in the movie. As such, the experience can't be as enticing as the Director intended.

Rating: 8/10