Frank Oz’s Little Shop of Horror’s, Cronenberg’s The Fly, Carpenter’s The Thing, De Palma’s Scarface and Scorsese’s Cape Fear make up a very small list of remakes that are better than the original movies. 2020 sees another film added to that list; Leigh Whannell’s Invisible Man.
With its mind blowing effects, sensational performances, brutal and beautiful cinematography and amazing script, writer and director Leigh Whannell takes the trite and extremely un-scary concept of the original Invisible Man and transformers it into a terrifying tale full of relevance to our current age.
The road to this magnificent movie is a fascinating story seeing as it was never actually meant to be made in the first place. With every film company scrabbling around trying to replicate the immense success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe few properties seemed fitting to be transformed into a shared set of cross over movies. One old franchise however was ripe for remaking and that was the Universal Classic Monsters.
With a legacy going back to the 1920’s and a huge roster of iconic characters that are cemented in our cultural history forever the idea of revitalising Universal’s monster movies for a modern blockbuster audience seemed seamless and so the Dark Universe was conceived.
Starting to lay the ground work for these big budget blockbusters with 2014’s historical epic Dracula Untold and expanding the characters and shared world with 2017 action packed Tom Cruise vehicle The Mummy which introduced Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, announcements where made of new films coming featuring Javier Bardem as the Frankenstein’s Monster and Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man.
However production halted when the movies they had released not only received negative reviews but fared badly at the box office hitting the company where it hurts and forcing them to rethink the entire crossover concept. Where could Universal look to help them with there brand new but already failing franchise? The modern home of horror Blumhouse Productions of course.
Cleverly collaborating with the hugely successful company on the next remake, The Invisible Man was put forward as a standalone film and it is all the better for it allowing Whannell the freedom to take the story in any direction he wanted.
It is interesting to think that most updated versions of the Invisible Man myth position the monster as a predatory pervert. From Paul Verhoeven’s Hollow Man to the character of Translucent in The Boys when a man has the power to become invisible he uses it for one thing only, to spy and prey on women.
Taking this twisted male fantasy further into the realms of fear and revealing its true motivation, which is to have control and power over the female species, the central character in The Invisible Man is not the villain but the victim Cecilia Kass (The Handmaid’s Tale’s Elisabeth Moss) who starts the film fleeing from her abusive boyfriend.
Hiding out in the home of childhood friend Detective James Lanier (Straight Outta Compton’s Aldris Hodge) and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid from A Wrinkle in Time) the paranoid and petrified Cecilia is shocked when she hears her ex Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a wealthy businessmen and engineer, has committed suicide.
Stunned by this and the fact that she has been left a huge sum of money in his will Cecilla starts to rebuild her life but before long she starts to suspect Adrien is still around. Constantly feeling she is being watched and frequently experiencing strange and sinister occurrences she is unable to convince her friends and family of her greatest fear, that some how, some way Adrien has faked his death and come back to make her life a living hell.
Going from strength to strength as a writer and director Whannell’s last film Upgrade was a Sci-Horror masterpiece yet with The Invisible Man he has somehow managed to surpass himself. Perfect from start to finish few films have ever created such a atmosphere of terror which seeps from every frame and the tension in the first half of the film is almost unbearable.
Whannell’s vision and inventiveness in updating the classic Universal monster is exceptional and using the story to in a small way expose the horrific hidden face of domestic abuse serves to make the movie shockingly relevant and powerful.
All this would be nothing without Elisabeth Moss, whose powerhouse performance takes the film to another level. Grabbing the viewer from the opening moments and never letting them look away we are forced to follow her on her journey into a nightmare where her abuser is all powerful, all seeing and able to get to her wherever she is.
One of the best remakes of all time, one of the best horror films of the last 10 years and definitely the best film of 2020 The Invisible Man shows that given the right cast and the right creatives it is possible to take something as sacred as one of the classic Universal Monsters and give them a whole new lease of life.
The Invisible Man arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on 29 June