Universal start afresh with their relaunch of the re–imagine of their classic material from the vaults of the 1930’s/40’s horror back catalogue, and if the huge flop of 2017’s The Mummy, taught them something! Is that the action blueprint is out and horror is the new template, in a film that screams paranoia and terror……..
Tom Cruise was supposed to have been the face that launched a whole new world of monsters to the film-goer, a different movie universe to the one that Marvel had successfully created! The Mummy should have been the launchpad to something great and new, but instead what we had was a film that basically stank out the movie theatre.
Overblown nonsense, with CGI aplenty, the approach to make it more action oriented than a downright scare fest, brought groans to fans wanting something different and recalled memories of Hugh Jackman’s Van Helsing, a film ironically directed by Stephen Sommers who actually delivered a pretty good Indiana Jones inspired The Mummy film a few years before,
Universal thankfully have learnt from that approach and with the likes of JOKER showing the film world that an audience loves nothing more than a “real” and “gritty”, downbeat flick, they have somehow have taken their 1933 classic and re-invented it for a whole new generation. Its an attempt that once the final credits roll, you sit back and honestly believe that James Whale and HG Wells would be proud of!
In a very “Sleeping With The Enemy” opening, we meet Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss), waking from her bed in the early hours, leaving her drugged boyfriend asleep in a desperate attempt to leave her prison like torment!
Playing like a silent movie as she tiptoes around a lavish, stunning clifftop mansion that is just as scary if it was set in a haunted castle, the film cleverly sets the tone from the off. Even with no dialogue, we the viewer know what is happening. Cecilia is in an abusive relationship and is desperate to leave, and her attempt brings an unnerving sense to the proceedings, where a little thing like the setting off of a car alarm brings danger and sweats….. this beginning is good….really good!
The film skips a few weeks and Cecilia is staying with some close friends. The home of James (Aldis Hodge) who handily just happens to be cop and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid), with her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) living close by.
News that her billionaire boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has not only killed himself but also left her millions in his will, means that her life can finally move on from the past, but as we know, that is not quite happening for poor Cecilia and soon strange things start happening and paranoia and fear kicks in.
Its here that writer and director Leigh Whannell shows his hand! Having been around the horror block for many years with the likes of SAW and the INSIDIOUS franchises, his experience of how to handle a good scare is proven to be a beautiful thing and its a much welcome treat for us the horror fan.
When strange things start happening around Cecilia, long tracking shots of nothing but empty spaces, the camera moving slowly back and foe to the same spot, we know along with Cecilia that something is there, with her, watching and listening.
The film sparkles at this moment and draws echoes of when Paranormal Activity was in its full glory,. The trick of us the the viewer, straining our eyes as look around each frame of the film to see if anything is happening in the background, not wanting to miss anything, is all here and if it wasn’t for the film’s title, ruining the surprise, we could be forgiven for thinking that we are watching yet another ghostly flick in which Adrian has returned from the dead to wreck his revenge.
He hasn’t of course and with this being no spoiler – duh! – Adrian has somehow managed to become invisible and starts to terrorise poor Cecilia, to the point where all her close friends doubt her insanity and she begins to lose everyone around her.
The build up is wonderfully created, thanks to some stunning set-pieces that surprisingly thrills and delight. A bedroom scene in which a bed quilt and an empty chair brings exceeding terror shows just how good Whannell is with this stuff, knowing just what to show and when not to, which really brings the horror to the fore.
An attic scene adds to the most memorable moments of the film, until finally Adrian shows his true form to his target with a brutal kitchen battle that makes a mockery of anyone who thought this film would be gentle fare.
Moss is a revelation here and is the true standout of how this story plays out. Refusing to be the victim even in the most testing times, she proves to be just as canny as her Ex and its needed, because when the game moves up to murder, thanks to an effective and surprising knife to the throat death, Cecilia needs all her strength when the odds are against her.
Bizarrely, the film sort of moves away from the horror genre towards the last half and becomes like a remake of Predator -no seriously-in which Adrian becomes this unstoppable killing machine. The two hour running time may stretch the plot a tiny bit, with a twist many may see coming, but once we reach the end game, the final sequence moves away from the horror and action and offers up a delightful downbeat resolution that comes out of nowhere that you actually want to stand up and clap at the wickedness of it all….
Much like the man himself, the sight of the infamous iconic image of bandages and sunglasses are nowhere to be seen, this is a fresh take on a classic story, a #MeToo era horror/thriller that gives us all hope that perhaps there is life in this Universal world yet and amazingly banishes all memories of Tom Cruise waking from his death to fight a badly created mummy……
Yes, The Invisible Man is that good…….