If you went back in time and told me that not only was Universal doing a modern remake of “The Invisible Man,” a property so dated that it’s only scary to people who also run away from the screen because “the train is about to hit them,” but also that the remake would actually be pretty good, I would have laughed in your face. And yet, here we are. Somehow, against all odds, a movie named “The Invisible Man” released in 2020 is actually genuinely entertaining. More so than almost every other major horror movie I’ve seen in recent memory, and definitely the best of all the recent remakes. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t anything amazing. It’s actually pretty dumb. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was thoroughly entertained throughout the entire duration of the film, even when it began to border on absolute lunacy near the end.
Right from the beginning, we see that the premise of the film has been updated dramatically for modern audiences, unlike the absolutely god-awful “Mummy” remake of 2017. Instead of a mad scientist creating a wacky invisibility potion, the film’s primary antagonist is a wealthy Tony Stark-type egomaniac named Adrian who also serves as an abusive, manipulative boyfriend towards the film’s protagonist, Cecilia. After escaping from Adrian’s oceanfront mansion and almost being pulled through a car window by her deranged ex-boyfriend, Cecilia begins the process of recovering from her abusive relationship at a friend’s house when she suddenly receives notice of Adrian’s apparent death. Discovered dead in his mansion with his wrists slit, Adrian had evidently committed suicide and left $5 million of his fortune to Cecilia, provided she is not found guilty of any criminal charges or deemed mentally unstable.
This sets the stage for an invisible tormentor to begin the slow, meticulous process of ruining Cecilia’s life, destroying her personal relationships, framing her for various illegal activities, and making her appear completely incompetent in everything she does. Watching these events unfold as everyone in Cecilia’s life begins to turn away from her is surprisingly heartbreaking and effective, and the movie does a great job of portraying just how brutal the power dynamic in an abusive relationship can be. Cecilia starts to second-guess everything she does, and as people continually tell her that she just needs to drop Adrian and move on with her life, she can’t help but feel as though she’s starting to go insane herself.
Unfortunately, the whole film’s premise takes away a lot of the mystery for the first half of the movie, which I think would’ve been much more effective without all of the promotional material showing exactly how the invisible man became “the invisible man.” If you haven’t already seen the trailer, then I would STRONGLY advise you to stop yourself from watching it, as it pretty much gives away the entire rest of the movie from start to finish, spoiling almost every major plot point along the way. While there are certainly a few interesting twists throughout, as you’d expect from any competent movie, the overall narrative is definitely weakened by the fact that everything is explained so early-on and it’s just a matter of when and how the other characters will join in on that explanation.
Luckily, Elisabeth Moss kills it as Cecilia, and her performance is fantastic throughout the entire duration of the film, distracting from most of the god-awful expository dialogue. Aldis Hodge is also great as James, a local cop and Cecilia’s childhood friend, and the development of their characters drifting apart from one another due to Cecilia’s deteriorating psyche is portrayed extremely well. However, Cecilia’s relationship with her sister was definitely something I felt was glossed over, as she was the one who recused her from Adrian’s mansion near the beginning of the film and then just kind of dropped off the radar for a long time. They are only later reunited due to Cecilia being framed for an extremely explainable event that suddenly forces them apart again for basically the rest of the movie. It was irritating to see that a character portrayed to be extremely tough and smart was apparently tricked by one of the laziest ways you can possibly try to impersonate someone, and Cecelia doesn’t even seem to attempt to make things right until the last possible second.
I guess this is where I should talk about the overall logic of the film, or lack thereof. While it was definitely an entertaining concept, the idea of a normal person inside an invisibility suit following around his ex-girlfriend all day provides numerous problems with just how much grace and finesse would be needed to literally chase her around places like a city street, a crowded restaurant, or a busy hospital. I can’t imagine that dodging all those people constantly is an easy task, especially when your entire plan is based around convincing everyone else that your ex is crazy and leaving absolutely no evidence of your own existence. I definitely laughed a few times just imagining this goofy sociopath dodging waiters and pedestrians as he attempted to hover over Cecilia and listen to her every word while simultaneously having to move out of the way from every incoming obstacle.
Also, unless the invisibility suit also gives you super strength, it seems a little silly that a normal guy in this clunky full-body outfit can beat the crap out of cops, lift and carry a full-grown woman by her neck using a single arm, and resist getting all sorts of objects constantly smashed on his face by the people fighting back. As I mentioned previously, the film gets very silly very quickly near the end of the movie, and while it was pretty funny to watch, I don’t think that was the intended effect of the filmmakers. In general, the movie wasn’t actually that scary to begin with. I’d say it was more of a psychological thriller with random jump scares and musical stings added in at random intervals, though it seems like halfway through the film they just gave up on that and turned it into what is essentially a human monster movie. Probably for the best, as the jump scares seemed pretty inappropriate and were usually just focused on mundane things like someone kicking a dog food bowl or sheets getting pulled out of a character’s hands.
Overall, The Invisible Man was a pretty fun movie to watch, even if it didn’t really make a lot of sense once you start thinking about it for more than 3 seconds. The dialogue is generally pretty bad and the premise is goofy as all hell, but the movie as a whole is uplifted by its solid performances, effective use of violence, and deeply unsettling depiction of psychological abuse. It plays on the whole “nobody will ever believe you, even if it is the truth” trope extremely well with the way its antagonist slowly and methodically ruins the life of his ex-girlfriend. And while I definitely think they could have pushed the “history of abuse” angle of Adrian’s personality even further rather than just mentioning it in passing, I understand it would’ve probably made a lot of moviegoers uncomfortable. At the end of the day, they already have a hard sell with a movie released in 2020 called “The Invisible Man.” Regardless, I’d say that the film has more hits than misses in it and will definitely go down as an example of how to do an old school horror movie remake in a way that is both effective and entertaining.
6/10 – Above Average