In 2014, Universal Pictures released the action horror movie, Dracula Untold. The film – which starred Luke Evans as Dracula – was conceived as a standalone tale, but before production wrapped, the movie underwent a few reshoots to reposition it as the first entry in a new cinematic universe.
Universal had high hopes for the movie, but those hopes didn’t play out. When Dracula Untold arrived in cinemas, it opened to mixed reviews and flopped in the US.
Undeterred, Universal took another stab at its cinematic universe, this time placing the focus on The Mummy – another classic character that had been a staple of the big screen. The Mummy would become the initial entry in a cinematic universe, and Dracula Untold would be dismissed.
Convinced that this cinematic universe would finally get off the ground, Universal started to publicise its interconnected world, which was now dubbed the Dark Universe. This universe was to consist of a number of pictures, from the Bride of Frankenstein to a Johnny Depp-led picture featuring The Invisible Man, but once again it didn’t come to pass.
When The Mummy arrived in cinemas in 2017, it was met with lacklustre reviews. Despite Tom Cruise’s presence in the film The Mummy bombed and the Dark Universe was abruptly cancelled.
But keen not to abandon its monsters for good, the studio scrapped the Johnny Depp picture and all other Dark Universe projects, and instead pushed forward with a new take on The Invisible Man from writer/director Leigh Whannell. This version of The Invisible Man opened in cinemas today and regardless of whether or not the Johnny Depp movie would have been a hit, let me tell you this now: This film is excellent.
If you have caught glimpse of the trailer (which you can view below) or you have already heard positive word of mouth, take this as your reason to go and see this film. Loosely based on the novel of the same name by H. G. Wells, The Invisible Man is a horror-thriller about domestic violence, stalking and PTSD, and is worth two hours of your time.
There have been multiple adaptations of The Invisible Man on the big screen, and when I heard that another was on the way, fresh off the back of the Dark Universe debacle, I must admit I was very sceptical. What could this version offer that previous films didn’t already cover?
Then I saw the trailer and the domestic abuse/stalking angle intrigued me. We live in a time where it is difficult to truly disconnect from the world, with the feeling that everyone is watching; so how would that play out if someone was?
In the film, lead character, Cecilia (played to perfection by Elisabeth Moss) is trapped in an abusive relationship and she wants out. After making her escape, Cecilia finally gets a taste of freedom; that is until she suspects her husband is watching her every move. But is she imagining things or is he lurking in the shadows as an invisible presence?
The driving force behind the picture is a superb performance from Moss who creates a strong presence in the role of Cecilia. Her metamorphosis from victim to survivor, back to victim again, is a compelling watch, but it is her ability to carry large chunks of this movie without other actors which truly must be applauded.
For significant sections of this film, Moss effectively plays to empty rooms which may or may not have an invisible presence. Not only does she manage to sell her role with conviction, but during these scenes she also manages to sell the empty space too.
And that’s what works so well about this movie – because of the way Moss plays each scene, as well as the way the film is shot, it always seems as if someone is watching. There are moments in which the screen is completely empty, with no signs that anyone is around at all, yet at the same time you still believe someone could be there.
In the same way that the Paranormal Activity films got audiences to scan the screen, convinced they were going to uncover something sinister just to the left, The Invisible Man does exactly the same thing. And in doing this it manages to keep and maintain tension throughout its running time, delivering an atmospheric, terrifying experience in the process.
At times there are shades of Sleeping With the Enemy (1991), Hollow Man (2000) and even Unsane (2018), and I expect everyone to make these connections, but they are fleeting moments. The Invisible Man is keen to carve out its own path and it does so very successfully, creating a tight thriller which elevate it far above its status as a remake/reboot/reimagining.
Last night, prior to seeing this film, I was having a discussion with my brother about remakes and reboots and the movie industry’s insistence on reviving and extending intellectual properties long past their expiration date. Both of us are getting a little tired of the endless cycle of remakes and revivals and we would like to see something new.
I joked that while I was bored of remakes, I was due to watch The Invisible Man in the morning – so perhaps I was part of the problem. And I guess I am – and will continue to be part of the problem; because when studios pull off remakes in this way, and make them so damn good, I really can’t fault them.
The Invisible Man was produced on a relatively low budget ($7 million), and I expect it to clean up at the box office. This might not be the first entry in Universal’s Dark Universe, but it is the first entry in a new sea of remakes, so prepare for more to arrive over the coming years.
For now, I can’t complain. The Invisible Man is a solid horror-thriller which grabs your attention from its opening moments. It puts a new spin on a well-worn story, and provides enough jump scares and thrills to delight even those who feel like they have seen it all before.
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