So, it’s a late night. It’s Day 9 of no work and much social distance. Anxiety and existential dread are keeping me awake. So, I decided to rent The Invisible Man since Universal was gracious enough to release it to VOD early. This is my third time seeing it, and there is no doubt it will remain one of my favorite movies of 2020 (let’s ignore the prospect that the movie industry may crumble in 2020).
So, anyway, the movie had some minor plot issues (like even the best horror movies [this being one] would have), but all of those are completely overshadowed by all the things that made the movie wonderful. It’s lame to review a movie that is weeks old, but let me now list what I love about it (spoilers ahead).
- The simplicity of it all; a simple budget, simple effects, simple plot, earnest but simple message. No PG-13, summer-blockbuster-budget ridiculousness.
- Cecilia is a victim of domestic violence, but, despite what her sister says at one point in the film, she is neither stupid nor weak. Through the veil of a horror film, we are given a victim of domestic violence that society needs to see; a smart, capable woman who is fully aware how her abuser operates but still finds herself unable to escape her clutches. This is how abuse works. Anyone can become a victim, not the “weak” or the “stupid,” anyone.
- In a lesser movie, Cecilia would have doubted herself; she would have spent the first quarter of the movie questioning her sanity or entertaining the idea that she’s being haunted by Adrian’s ghost. Instead, Cecilia never doubts that what she’s experiencing is real and that Adrian is behind it. She knows she’s right, and she never stops trying to get others to listen to her.
- The movie portrays a straight male/straight female friendship that is in no way romantic and has not a hint of sexual tension. The film doesn’t go out of its way to explain how these two are friends, just as the movie wouldn’t bother to do if James’s character were a woman. This was refreshing.
- I have to admit, when I learned that Griffin’s character was being turned into a domestic abuser in this new film, I was worried. I worried that, like Hollow Man and The League of Extraordinary comics, there would certainly be an invisible rape scene. But the film resisted all shades of exploitation, instead centering the film around Cecilia and her experiences.
- One staple of the various iterations of Griffin since Wells’s original novel is the theme of scientific hubris; Griffin goes too far and injects himself with an invisibility serum but is unable to reverse the effects, driving him mad and leading him to a mission of anarchy. This key element of Griffin is gone, as he’s traded in the irreversible serum with a suit that he can slide in and out of easily. This newer version’s mission is much more focused, focused on tormenting one woman specifically. But I very much enjoyed this change. It was a necessary update that made the Invisible Man frightening again for the 21st century.
- The movie had some very clever elements that I would never have noticed if it weren’t for a friend pointing them out; Cecilia’s nickname is C (“see”), and the Invisible Man’s first act on screen is to light a gas stove. Get it? “Gaslighting?” Get it???
Anyway, stay safe out there my friends. Try to watch some good movies while you’re sequestered.