THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020, Leigh Whannell)
It’s telling that the most suspenseful sequence in this movie has nothing to do with invisibility — it’s the opening few minutes, when Moss is escaping her abusive husband in the dead of night. Because the premise of this umpteenth take on the Wells novel is something Whannell spitballed off the top of his head in a pitch meeting with Blumhouse and Universal (before it was fast-tracked into production and released less than 12 months after US and 19 months after UPGRADE): it focuses on the victim of domestic violence, and asks us to believe women. Seems like an obvious take, but one we haven’t seen before — the titular man is a villainous monster whose head we’re never in, and who we never see outside of the POV of Moss’s unhinged, gaslighted protagonist. He’s not just invisible because of his brilliant invention; his crimes are invisible to anyone who won’t sit right next to the wife, watching her life get destroyed.
Whannell takes that premise and runs with it, letting Moss carry the entire load and she really lets ‘er rip throughout this — sometimes a little too much (she behaves so crazily at times you can’t even blame everyone else for thinking she’s insane) — proving she has as much range as you’ll give her. And while Moss grounds the battered-wife angle, Whannell’s shoddy, first-draft-scented script provides his usual grindhouse pleasures. It’s gory, unsettling, and revels in B-movie atmosphere. Sure, the story doesn’t make as much sense as you wish it would, and some details are slightly risible (what kind of cop does a covert stakeout with the dome light on in his car?) but what you remember days after watching this is the uncommon degree of control over camera movement, off-screen and on-screen space, silence-as-a-weapon, and general tone of unease, all serving to deliver the goods in a movie that puts a new horror spin on the concept of how difficult it is for abused spouses to get justice, and just how much of the world seems dedicated to choosing the side of the invisible man.