The Invisible Man (2020) is a fresh new take on the original 1897 novel from H.G Wells about a scientist driven mad after inventing the ability to become invisible. The most famous film adaptation is the 1933 original starring Claude Rains as Jack Griffin. Directed by James Whale (who also directed Frankenstein), the film is pretty faithful to the novel and the special effects still mostly stand up nearly ninety years later. There were sequels of course, as part of Universal’s monster franchise in the mid twentieth century, but other than a surprisingly average effort from Paul Verhoeven with Hollow Man (2000), the Invisible Man has largely remained absent from horror cinema, especially when you compare how many Dracula films there are.
This new version from director Leigh Whannel updates the story with a ‘#MeToo’ slant where the titular character, (Adrian Griffin) is very controlling and abusive towards his partner, Cecilia, played by the always impressive Elisabeth Moss. After she escapes this hellish relationship, she finds out that Adrian has killed himself and she is finally free of the fear that he might find her. However as time goes on, there are signs that she is being stalked and harassed by an invisible presence.
Elisabeth Moss is excellent in this film as you would expect from someone who has been a primary player in both Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale. She is in almost every scene in the film and her performance makes this a contender for one of the best horror films of the year.
The fact that the story draws from an unfortunate real horror of being in an abusive relationship that is all too common. Where the previous Kevin Bacon starring remake of Hollow Man failed, is that is focused more on his arrogant and vicious version of the Invisible Man. In that film, you seem him use his ability to rape his neighbour and any relatability to the character dies in that moment and the story loses that tragic element that the novel and the 1933 adaptation pertains.
Refreshingly the 2020 version focuses on the abused rather than the abuser and like 2019’s Midsommar, is another example of a horror film effectively portraying gas lighting and how damaging the psychological effects of this kind of abuse can be. Perhaps some of the stronger elements of the film occur at the beginning where Cecilia is struggling to move on and is terrified with just getting the newspaper and carrying out day-to-day activities. There is a palpable sense of dread throughout and director Leigh Whannel (who was one of the writers of the original Saw) ramps up the intensity with some truly jaw-dropping twists and turns.
When it was released in cinemas it did become the number one film at the US box office. Little did anyone know that it would be one of the last films for a while to make any money at the box office. With the current crisis getting worse, the big blockbusters like No Time to Die and Black Widow were postponed and cinemas were swiftly shut. Universal did something unprecedented and released The Invisible Man early so it was available to be rented from streaming services like YouTube, ITunes and Amazon Prime. Choose your preferred streaming service here.
Films are released on home entertainment much quicker than they used to be but three weeks after initial release is unheard of. Soon other films followed suit with Birds of Prey and (as if parents weren’t struggling enough with the current situation), Trolls World Tour is also due to be available to stream in the next few weeks.
It begs the question, what does the future of cinema hold when it comes to new releases. Admittedly going to the cinema in the last few years has been a decidedly mixed experience. Most of the time it is without event, but audience members are increasingly struggling to watch a film without having to check various social media channels. I even had to tell someone off for being on their phone during Joker which is something I wouldn’t have to do if I watched it for the first time in the comfort of my living room. However, I feel that cinema-going is a too well loved tradition that will completely fade away. The vast majority of films are made to be experienced for the first time on the big screen. Even Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman which was made for Netflix but it was clear with its epic story and scope, Scorsese did not make it with the intention of people watching it on the toilet on their iPhone. In fact my brother and I travelled to the Barn Cinema in Dartington especially to see it on the big screen.
In fact, streaming The Invisible Man at home on my iPad meant I ended up losing some of the scares which would have been more vivid and intense if I was experiencing the film at the cinema. There are a lot of distractions at home whereas in the cinema, you get to view the film uninterrupted and with your undivided attention. Some films (like certain horror films and blockbusters) play better with a packed audience and nothing quite beats a shared experience like a cinema trip or a concert. I’d like to think that when things are as back to normal, cinemas up and down the country will be busy and going out will seem new and exciting again.