How do you convince the world that someone is stalking you when nobody can see the stalker — including you?
That’s the premise of “The Invisible Man,” the latest in a long line of films roughly based on HG Wells’ 1897 sci-fi novel of the same name. Previous movies — a 1933 version starring Claude Rains (“The Invisible Man”), a 1992 John Carpenter entry starring Chevy Chase (“Memoirs Of An Invisible Man”), and Paul Verhoeven’s 2000 movie “Hollow Man,” starring Kevin Bacon — all had different plots, but in most of them, the central character was a guy who started off normal, then became undetectable, then went mad.
In this version, the protagonist is Cecilia Kass, who is trying to get away from her abusive boyfriend, Adrian Griffin. As the film begins, it’s the middle of the night as she slips out of their home on a cliff overlooking the Pacific. She makes a run for it, her sister picks her up on a nearby road, and she’s free. Or is she? I won’t spoil any more of the plot for you, but suffice to say things get worse, not better.
I’ve seen “The Invisible Man” described as a horror movie, but it’s not. Yes, there’s violence (some of it gory) and there are a couple of jump scares, but this is truly a suspense movie, because we don’t know what’s going on any more than Cecilia does. Writer/director Leigh Whannel uses taut pacing to keep us on the edge of our seats. In particular, I found it very clever the way he has the camera pan the room on occasion, as if we might get some clue about what’s about to happen — but we can’t see a thing, just like Cecilia.
The best asset of “The Invisible Man” is Elisabeth Moss, who gives a dazzling lead performance. There are several times when the camera lingers on her very expressive face as she tries to solve this mystery while filled with fear and apprehension. We can’t help but sense Cecilia’s dread during those long moments. Aldis Hodge is also good as a cop friend who lets Cecilia stay at his place, which they both assume is safe from whatever the threat is. Of course, in a suspense movie, assumptions about safety are rarely correct.
“The Invisible Man” wouldn’t work if it weren’t for some very good visual effects and a bunch of talented stunt people. And it wouldn’t be nearly as good without Moss who — like Linda Hamilton in “Terminator 2” — has to convince the authorities that her life is at risk because of a monster they can’t comprehend.
I give this version of “The Invisible Man” an 8.5 out of 10.
Note: If you’re planning to see this movie, do yourself a big favor and don’t watch the trailer or any commercials for it. There’s no suspense without surprise, yet those teasers give away far too much.