- by Jeff Beck
The Invisible Man (2020): A Thrilling Update of the Classic Tale (Blu-ray)
H.G. Wells' infamous novel "The Invisible Man" has always been a popular piece of material for adaptation, spawning several TV shows, and multiple films, including the fantastic 1933 Universal classic starring Claude Rains. Despite the frequency of its use, the material continues to be an inspiration to filmmakers, most recently including writer/director Leigh Whannell, who has devised his own modern twist on the terrifying tale. Whannell has had a somewhat spotty career in horror, creating major franchises like "Saw" and "Insidious," but his ideas always seem to be, at the very least, slightly intriguing, and so, taking Wells as his inspiration, the potential seemed to eclipse his previous projects almost at once.
The film begins as Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) is desperately trying to escape her domineering husband, Adrian Griffith (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), an optics engineer. She drugs him one night and flees with the help of her sister, Emily (Harriet Dyer), barely getting away with Adrian right on their heels. Cecilia stays with an old friend, Detective James Lanier (Aldis Hodge), and his daughter, trying to get used to life again, but still living in fear that Adrian will find her. Shortly after, she hears that Adrian has committed suicide and left her $5 million, but she also starts experiencing strange happenings that she can't explain. This leads her to believe that her husband may still be alive and coming after her using his technical brilliance. Of course, nobody believes her, forcing her to take matters into her own hands.
Indeed, this material has been done multiple times before, so it was going to take something a little special to pull it from the "been there, done that" pile, and surprisingly, Whannell is able to accomplish that for the most part. This latest rendition of the story is filled with intriguing twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat. You pretty much know what's happening the entire time, but the fun comes in guessing where the antagonist is throughout (or if they're even there at all in certain scenes), and what they're going to do next.
This is punctuated by fantastic special effects, which have certainly come a long way since the 1933 classic, and help to give the film that extra chill it needs to be effective. Adding to this effect is the strong performance from Elisabeth Moss, who truly gives you the feeling of a desperate woman losing her mind while being put through this hellish situation. She rolls with the punches (and tosses) quite well, and helps keep the audience engaged throughout with her determination and charisma. Moss is one of those actors that's simply always a delight to see, from her best work down to material that isn't quite worthy of her talents.
Earlier I mentioned that Whannell accomplished his reimagining for the most part, and he certainly does, but it is held back a fair amount by its extended length of two hours. Most horror movies tend not to do well at that length (generally this is why most seem to run around 90 minutes), and it does become rather noticeable here in certain scenes that feel like they're merely padding out the runtime. It doesn't hurt the film to the point of rejecting it, but it definitely would have benefited from a little trimming here and there to tighten it up some.
Overall, Whannell has delivered a decent little horror thriller that should please fans of the genre looking for a few good chills. It might even be fair to say that this is the best thing he's written (with the only adequate comparison being the original "Saw"). It's certainly not without its flaws, but there's enough here to make up for them, including an engaging storyline and Moss' gripping performance. It just goes to show that sometimes oft-adapted material can be made to feel fresh again, even if the filmmaker does go just a little overboard.
"The Invisible Man" comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. This is a very dark film for the most part, but every frame is beautifully sharp and clear, highlighting the film's numerous incredible visual effects. Likewise, the Dolby Atmos Audio is fantastic, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and score (including musical stingers, of course) in excellent quality. Overall, Universal has done a remarkable job with the film's home release, which will be sure to please the multitude of horror fans ready to add it to their collection.
Feature Commentary: An informative track in which writer/director Leigh Whannell discusses the making of the film.
Moss Manifested (4 Minutes): A very brief featurette in which Elisabeth Moss and others discuss the film.
Director's Journey with Leigh Whannell (11 Minutes): A neat look behind the scenes with the director.
The Players (5 Minutes): A brief look at the film's characters.
Timeless Terror (3 Minutes): A featurette that explores how Whannell updated the classic story.
Deleted Scenes (13 Minutes): A collection of nine deleted sequences.
Leigh Whannell's reimagining of "The Invisible Man" is an effective horror thriller that utilizes outstanding special effects, a chilling storyline, and a strong performance from Elisabeth Moss, and while the film is a little padded out at two hours, it still delivers a good amount of chills that should please fans on the lookout for a tense and suspenseful entry in the genre.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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