This review is dedicated to all the people reading it and all the invisible people that are reading over their shoulders.
The Invisible Man is the latest adaptation/remake of one of Universal’s classic monster movies. It is also the seventh (!) horror film to come out in 2020 alone. While almost every other horror film has failed to ignite any kind of passion or even casual enjoyment from audiences, The Invisible Man represents what is hopefully a turning point for the year. The movie is everything you could want. It is terrifying. It is an incredible acting showcase for its lead star. Most importantly to its success, it is a very well made movie with a timely message.
“The Invisible Man represents what is hopefully a turning point for the year.”
The film stars Elisabeth Moss as Cecilia, a woman who we first meet as she is escaping an abusive relationship. The movie begins as she quietly, methodically makes her getaway under the dark of night and to the crash of a thunderstorm. Not long after making her way to safety, Cecilia feels she is being followed. She can’t be though! She is in hiding. No one knows where she is except her sister and the people she is with. Plus, her boyfriend committed suicide not long after she left. Who would be after her? Still, she can’t shake the feeling that she is being watched. After several odd occurrences, Cecilia becomes convinced that her boyfriend faked his own death and is somehow taunting her without being seen. If only her family and friends would believe her…
The horror genre has always been known for its ability to weave social commentary into its otherworldly ideas. Night of the Living Dead is notable for its commentary on race relations in America during the Civil Rights Movement. Dawn of the Dead was a sharp take on consumerism which had begun plaguing America. Just last year, Jordan Peele took on the idea of the haves vs the have nots within our culture in Us. Horror has always been a breeding ground for talented filmmakers to make a statement on our society in a way that allows it to go down smoothly for middle America. The Invisible Man is no exception. While it would be easy to write this one off as just another movie based on existing IP, it would be a disservice to both the film and oneself to do so.
“Horror has always been a breeding ground for talented filmmakers to make a statement on our society in a way that allows it to go down smoothly for middle America.”
The prevailing message of The Invisible Man is surprising, given the original film’s simplistic nature, yet entirely effective. It is also a message our society could stand to hear in our current social climate: Believe women. It’s simple, really. When someone tells you about something they have gone through, believe them. Empathize, respect, and care for them. Don’t try to prove they are wrong. Don’t look for holes in their story. Definitely don’t default to believing they cannot be trusted. Every time that human to human decency is not afforded to somebody who has been through something traumatic, it only further isolates them at a time when they are at their most vulnerable.
The Invisible Man deftly depicts the parallels between what Cecilia is experiencing after escaping her relationship to what so many women are experiencing while still in such relationships. We hear stories and we come up with our own conclusions, not wanting to believe that such evil is taking place. “I’m sure he didn’t mean to.” “Maybe it was an accident.” “Did he apologize?” We come up with these excuses, despite hearing firsthand information that contradicts our assumptions. The Invisible Man doesn’t have to be a person that literally cannot be seen. It may be the other side of the person that, in public, seems so caring and loving. Behind close doors, they may be the menacing force of evil that Cecilia feels lurking behind her, long after she has left her abuser.
“The Invisible Man doesn’t have to be a person that literally cannot be seen. It may be the other side of the person that, in public, seems so caring and loving.”
On the other hand, drawing entertainment out of a very real, very dangerous reality for so many could have been irresponsible. Leigh Whannell, the film’s writer and director, handles the situation with care. The relationship is never depicted as anything less than horrific. Her abuser, never sympathetic. Even when her friends and family aren’t, we are with Cecilia the whole way through. The audience is quite literally by her side from the beginning as she makes her great escape. Whannell also makes an important decision that, had he gone the other direction, would have changed everything. The audience is never in doubt of what Cecilia is experiencing. We see everything, hear everything, and feel everything. We are alongside Cecilia, begging to be believed, but always hearing reasons why we are not. Putting the audience in that position makes us feel the hopelessness that Cecilia feels.
While Whannell deserves plenty of praise for how The Invisible Man is told and how it plays out, Moss is the key to everything. Moss portrays Cecilia in a careful, nuanced way. She isn’t sure that she believes what she is experiencing at first. We can see in her face and in her mannerisms, the way she shrugs off her gut instincts. She has been conditioned to question her own reality and is doing so, even after leaving the relationship. Once she believes herself, we see her slow descent into madness when others refuse to also. We never look at her like she is crazy though. She isn’t! We empathize with her – she is desperate to be believed. Without being able to communicate our unity, we feel desperate also.
“She isn’t sure that she believes what she is experiencing at first.”
It’s this bond that we share with Cecilia that really makes the film work. We stand alongside her, feeling hopeless and not knowing where to go. But like so many that have experienced or are experiencing an abusive relationship, Cecilia finds it in herself to keep going. Whannell’s direction makes this a scary movie but it is Cecilia’s experience that makes it a terrifying one. The Invisible Man is a fun movie to sit back and enjoy, but it is important to take in its message. Believe women.
*If you feel like you may be in an abusive relationship, know that you are not alone. Call 1-800-799-7233 to get the help you need.*
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