Director: Leigh Whannell
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Cast: Elizabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer
The Mummy  must surely belong in a Hall of Fame somewhere for terrible movies.
It wasn’t just that it was critically panned. It wasn’t just that it did miserably at the box office. It wasn’t just that it broke Tom Cruise’s decades long streak as one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars who had a knack for only appearing in blockbuster hits. The Mummy was terrible on such a colossal scale that it spooked Universal Pictures into cancelling five other productions that were planned as part of a collective Dark Universe; despite the films already being cast with the likes of Russel Crowe, Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem.
To be honest, I don’t think most people gave it much thought. The movie stunk and life moved on. Personally, I took it much harder. Although a “Dark Universe” that blatantly ripped off the concept of the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn’t inspire much confidence, I am an absolutely massive fan of the original stable of Universal monster movies. I watch the likes of The Wolf Man, Dracula and Bride of Frankenstein every year. James Whale’s The Invisible Man  is an all time top ten favourite of mine. I think the monsters in these films and themes they explore have a timeless quality about them and we should see new adaptations of these films every generation, the way we do with say Godzilla or King Kong.
In short, I was worried that The Mummy and the failed Dark Universe project had done irreparable damage to the brand of these famous movie monsters and it would be decades before we saw them again.
Fortunately, someone at Universal must’ve been a true believer. Despite cancelling the shared cinematic universe and seeing all the big name actors drop out, some blessed soul apparently green-lit a new production of The Invisible Man with promising young director Leigh Whannell at the helm and Elizabeth Moss being granted her first ever lead role in a feature length film.
The result is a bigger success than I could’ve hoped for.
Moss plays Cecilia, a woman trapped in an abusive relationship with a wealthy, jealous and controlling businessman Adrian Griffin. The film opens with a heart-stopping sequence as Cecilia tries to sneak out their home in the dead of night without waking Adrian or setting any number of the alarms and triggers he has set up around the house.
Cecilia narrowly escapes and tries to start a new life living with her childhood friend Detective James Lanier and his daughter Sydney.
Two weeks later Cecilia receives the unexpected news that Adrian has killed himself and in his will, he has bequeathed to her his entire estate and multi-million dollar fortune, as arranged by his lawyer brother Tom. This should be the closing chapter to a traumatic period of Cecilia’s life but instead, a series of inexplicable accidents and near misses have Cecilia questioning whether she is going insane or if Adrian is somehow still alive and tormenting her, seemingly gifted with the power of invisibility.
This movie rules. Flipping the vantage point of the story away from Griffin and onto the Cecilia is an inspired move by Whannell and the perfect way to create a fresh, modern take on the Invisible Man tale whilst sticking with the fundamentals of what make the character so good. Whannell has worked as a solid hand in the horror genre for many years and his excellent sci-fi action film Upgrade showed everyone he had the chops to handle this production.
Whannell exercises great patience in the first half of the film, letting the tension build and the hairs rise up on the back of your neck. The camera is masterfully framed and purposefully lingers on empty chairs, doors and shadowy corners just long enough that you begin to question yourself whether you saw someone lurking behind Cecilia. Elizabeth Moss has made a name for herself with powerful performances in shows such as Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale and that translates very naturally onto the big screen. Cecilia can be sheltered, frightened out of her wits and self doubting at times. But she also the capacity to be fierce, resourceful and cunning when pushed to her limits. And thats what makes the back half of this film so good. Without spoiling or giving away too many details, Cecilia doesn’t allow herself to be a victim and once she has a reckoning with what she’s up against, she refuses to go quietly into the night.
The Invisible Man is a fabulous re-invention of a classic horror tale. It should comfortably cement Moss as a leading actor in future productions (I’d love for her to dabble more in horror, she’s perfect) and this film absolutely marks the arrival of Leigh Whannell as a director destined for big things. Whether he gets scooped up by a Marvel Studios or whether he decides to keep working with Blumhouse is anyone’s guess but whatever he makes next, I’m there.