The Invisible Man: What You Can’t See Can Hurt You

Elizabeth Nowak

Leigh Whannell created a suspenseful horror adaptation of H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man for the modern era. The film follows Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss), a woman trapped in an abusive and manipulative relationship who escapes from her boyfriend one night while he is asleep. Even when she thinks she is safe, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) haunts her.

Director Leigh Whannell is no stranger when it comes to working with horror, having written, directed, and acted in popular horror franchises like Saw and Insidious. Deciding to tackle one of H.G. Wells’ science fiction classics, Whannell really sets the bar high in terms of fear and suspense. In an era where women are finally saying “me, too,”  Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) captures the fear of being trapped in an abusive relationship with a man who is gaslighting her. He is controlling every aspect of her life. With the emotional stakes, Moss takes a normal performance of standing outside in the cold alone up to the next level. The terror dripping off of her could be felt through the theater. Whannell’s choice in cinematic technique stands out with plenty of suspenseful music and copious amounts of panning to hallways with no one there. The silent, invisible killer is a terrifying notion.

In the film, Cecilia wakes in the middle of the night to Adrian’s arm tightly around her. Even in her sleep he has a tight hold on her. She sneaks out to get away from him and his mansion-sized middle of nowhere compound by the sea. It is a visual representation of the type of prison she is in. As the film goes on, Cecilia thinks she’s finally free after hearing some news. That is when things start to heat up. Papers go missing, things move on their own. As she tries to explain to everyone that she’s not crazy and that Adrian is somehow behind it all, people are wary to believe her. Much like today’s world, many women have been ignored and with lack of evidence, many cases are hard to prove.

In an article in The New York Times, Erik Piepenburg writes, “Unlike a plot twist or a killer reveal in the final moments of a horror movie, an unforeseen shock early or midway in a film reorients the story and disorients the viewer.” In terms of an adapted film for today, this is the best explanation. Several other films that have become classics have garnered this reaction such as Psycho. That is what makes this film standout. What creates an even more chilling tale is that this film does not add much in terms of special effects. Each actor playing their part next to empty air is both magical and frightening. It really sets their skill set apart. It is one thing to act with a physical partner, it is another to have to act by yourself with someone you can’t see. 

With Whannell behind the camera and on paper and the acting of Moss and Jackson-Cohen, The Invisible Man fits well in this modern time where women and even men are silently abused. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 95% of men who physically abuse their intimate partners also psychologically abuse them. Through the film, dead or alive, visible or invisible, Adrian does just that.

I would absolutely recommend this film to any horror buff and those who are looking for a good scare. With several jump-scares throughout the film, it is not going to disappoint in that area. Anything with Jason Blum’s production company attached has delivered essential cinematic horror films. Currently with theaters shuttered for the time being, distribution company Universal has opted to move their films to rent on-demand at $19.99 for 48 hours. So while you are stuck at home with nothing to do and you want a quick fun scare, give it a try.

With the fear filling the world right now because of the Coronavirus, many men and women are trapped in isolation with their abusers who may use this time to lash out at them. According to an article in TIME, “Domestic violence advocates say that victims who are not yet in quarantine status should seek help now.” If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. If you cannot speak for whatever reason, log onto or text LOVEIS to 22522.

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