The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man: Feminist reboot of a classic

Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Oliver Jackson-Cohen

Director: Leigh Whannell

Rating: * * * *

In his coming of age story, The Invisible Man, the author Ralph Ellison says that to be invisible means to be construed by others as a collection of general stereotypes rather than an actual, individual person. Invisible people could also be those who are taken for granted and not considered worthy of attention.

The titular character in the sci fi horror film under review though is a deranged wealthy scientist who uses his new found power of Invisibility to stalk his ex-girlfriend. And worse, far worse. At the outset, it must be pointed out also that the movie is a feminist retelling of HG Wells' 1897 novel of the same name; it is NOT, as has been claimed in a promo blurb and elsewhere, "inspired by Universal’s classic monster character."

In other words, the iconic villain was created by Wells in his classic novel and Leigh Whannell's movie is an update of Wells' original story about a mad murderous scientist. Readers should know the novel spawned a number of film adaptations, sequels and spin-offs, some of which used concepts that were largely unrelated to the source material. In 1933, Universal Studios produced the first adaptation which is said to be closest in spirit to Wells' novel, but you can catch, on one of the TV channels right now, at least two other versions.

Whannell's take on the sci-fi horror story relegates the titular character to a secondary, albeit, pivotal role while retaining his essential persona; the director-writer also embellishes the plot with a couple of interesting twists. But most impressive of all is the much-abused heroine.

And who better than Elisabeth Moss to play the protagonist Cecilia, a woman stalked by her psychotic ex? In the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale”, Moss plays a woman oppressed by patriarchal exploitation of religion. In Whannell's retelling, the abusive Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) Griffin purportedly commits suicide making Cecilia, the beneficiary in his will. Then inexplicably, terrifying events occur for which Cecilia is blamed and picked up in an asylum when she insists that he's not dead at all.

The killings are shocking and are committed after the director builds up dread, punctuating the narrative with jump scares. I was afraid a misogynistic ending was in store for the audience. What happens next? No spoilers here. Suffice to say, the supporting cast and special effects are satisfactory, the direction deft, the movie terrifying. Moss is outstanding.

Reviewed by Ronita Torcato