A little film history lesson for you…The very first Universal monster movie was not Dracula, but actually The Hunchback of Notre Dame which came out in 1923. It was followed by The Phantom of the Opera in 1925. The original Dracula didn’t arrive in theaters until 1931. Anyway, monster movies were a big part of Universal Pictures films during its early days and continued through the 1950’s.
Since then, the studio has made a handful of remakes and reboots with various successes, but in 2014, Universal announced that they would create a new “Dark Universe” featuring a shared universe of all of the studio’s monsters of yesteryear. The first in the new series was Dracula Untold (2014) but though the film made a lot of money, the reviews were just so-so. In 2017, the Universal released the second Dark Universe film, a reboot of The Mummy starring Tom Cruise. Not only did it do poorly with critics, but filmgoers hated it too. The third movie in the new series was to be The Bride of Frankenstein, but it got cancelled and by January of 2019, Universal announced that all new monster movies would be made as standalone films.
Produced by Jason Blum for Blumhouse Productions, a new monster movie is being released that is only “inspired” by a former film. The Invisible Man this movie is written and directed by Leigh Whannell, but I don’t think that you can call it a remake or reboot as this new project has a [mostly] completely different storyline. Instead of actually focusing on the man who is invisible, this one centers on his significant other.
Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is a bad man. You can tell this by the way his girlfriend, Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) acts while he is asleep at the beginning of the film. She moves stealth-fully around their mansion of a home with its big concreate fence surrounding the property that overlooks the ocean somewhere near San Francisco. Adrian is not only rich, but also a successful scientist (we know this from a brief scene when Cecilia enter his laboratory) and we’ll assume a powerful man. We know this, because she is clearly running away from him with the help of her sister Emily Kass (Harriet Dyer) and her cop friend, Detective James Lanier (Aldis Hodge). Two weeks later, Adrian has committed suicide. Or did he?
Cecilia’s scary life is now all in the past. As it turns out, her ex left her with a huge chunk of change that she freely spends on her sister and friends. They things start to turn weird. Cecilia is sensing that she is being watched and strange things begin happening in her home. As you’ve already seen from the trailers, she begins to think that he husband isn’t really gone – just invisible. Of course, proving that to anyone else is going to be the hardest thing she’s ever done.
While there are few plot holes in the story, The Invisible Man is a scary-fun movie that we really haven’t seen (sorry) in a long time. The movie works mostly because of Moss’ performance. She’s virtually in every scene, so a lot is riding on her. And nobody can do “unhinged” better than Moss. Whereas a lessor actress wouldn’t be able to get away with uttering crazy lines, Moss gets away with it because, well, she’s Elizabeth Moss. There’s a lot of twists and turns to the story and just when you think it’s over, the story keeps going.
Unlike other monster movies, zero time is given on a backstory or set up on how this invisible man came to be. Instead, the movie plays like a mystery throughout. Many scenes are shown where you have to wonder – is he there or not? Though it’s a cliche, this movie will keep you on the edge of your seat.
One thing I wasn’t counting on though was the level of violence shown in two scenes. Typically in monster movies, from Dracula to Jurassic Park, the dread that builds in each scene is scarier than the actual scare itself, but this movie has a little “extra” which helped earned the film it’s R rating. Even so, The Invisible Man is a lot less gruesome or gory than slasher horror films. This is more of a thriller.
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.