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The Invisible Man (2020): A Horrifyingly Realistic Look at Domestic Abuse

The movie poster for 2020's The Invisible Man

Back during the times of shared movie universes, Universal attempted to get a monsterverse off the ground with the Dark Universe. Unfortunately 2017’s The Mummy tanked any further aspirations of a cinematic universe until further notice. Universal even announced an Invisible Man film starring the one and only Johnny Depp. Despite falling through, it has since jumped hands to Upgrade writer and director Leigh Whannell, who reworked the development into a standalone horror film. This would lead to extremely frightening results.

Cecilia Kass (played by Elizabeth Moss) leaves her abusive and technologically savvy husband, Adrian Griffin (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen). After he commits suicide, Cecilia receives a large sum of money from his estate. Upon the arrival of said money, strange things happen around Cecilia, leading her to believe that her ex-husband is still alive and stalking her. This leads all of her friends, family and even police to think she is paranoid. Abandoning all other options, Cecilia sets out to prove her ex-husband is still alive and tormenting her.

Elizabeth Moss as Cecilia Kass in The Invisible Man 2020

When I say The Invisible Man came out of nowhere, I really mean it came out of nowhere. I saw the promotional material for the film and honestly wasn’t expecting much, but when I started hearing all the reviews about it I thought, “alright, let’s check this out”. There are very few horror films that actually have me on the edge of my seat holding my breath, but The Invisible Man managed to take my breath for 2 whole hours! Particularly, its cinematography is simply masterful, involving wide shots of characters or having the camera remain on a still for much longer than it should. This added an unnerving sensation that you are being watched. Also contributing to the tension is whenever a fight sequence plays out, Director Leigh Whannel opted for motion sensor cameras attached to robotic equipment to capture every movement, adding to the insanity of the scene. This further allows the viewer to be exposed to this cinematography, which brings them to become more involved with the sequence and feel every blow as if it were happening to themselves.

Adrian Griffin in The Invisible Man 2020

Is this movie proof that Elizabeth Moss is underrated?! I know she has been dominating the small scene with roles in Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale. My personal introduction to her was in Jordan Peele’s Us, but her performance in The Invisible Man has to be her best performance EVER! She utilizes her work from The Handmaid’s Tale to sell the trauma Cecilia undergoes and the paranoia we all feel throughout the film. The trauma also makes her one of the most intelligent horror heroines of recent memory, using her knowledge of her abuser to her advantage, making her character journey empathetic, satisfying and empowering. I need to give credit to Oliver Jackson-Cohen for playing her abusive husband, making him very charismatic, extremely hateable and unpredictably terrifying with either a glance or a single word.

Domestic abuse is one of those sort of taboo topics that aren’t usually handled with grace in Hollywood, getting that extra level of melodrama and providing an over-the-top level of unrealistic abuse. Luckily with The Invisible Man, it is handled with said grace. It not only makes the abuser violent, but also controlling. All abuse is different from person to person, and the film shines an extra light on gaslighting, which The Invisible Man added that word to my vocabulary believe it or not. But the film is in fact, gaslighting personified, putting us in Cecilia’s shoes on whether she’s going crazy or not. However, we are in full belief of her whilst all her friends and family remain skeptical.

Cecilia Kass in The Invisible Man 2020
Don't Look Up!

It would not be a horror movie without jumpscares or slow-burn tension, fortunately this film has both! The Invisible Man managed to magnify our fear of the unknown and paranoia to build tension with traditional jumpscares to create thrilling horror experiences. Such is the case for when Cecilia is home alone and is attacked by her invisible stalker. Of course, I really want to rave about possibly one of the best jumpscares of all time without spoiling it. The way it handles our expectations as well as our sense of security in films truly makes it an effective and terrifying jumpscare.

The Invisible Man is definitely a defining horror film of the new millenia and it is also one of the biggest award snubs of recent memory. It brings lesser-known terms for domestic abuse such as gaslighting to the mainstream, adding to the conversation on trauma and how many deal with their abuser after leaving their horrible relationship. Leigh Whannell manages to keep things interesting with their slow-burn pace and well crafted jumpscares (which includes one of my favorites ever!). Along with excellent cinematography and other worldly acting from Elizabeth Moss are what make this a visceral viewing experience, whether it be at home or in a theater.

The Invisible Man in 2020's The Invisible Man
Tell me what you see

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