I don’t think anyone expected a remake of the classic 1933 Universal Monster movie The Invisible Man to actually be good. The original, while a horror staple, didn’t seem likely to translate well with modern audiences– but instead of replicating a gothic-horror tale, The Invisible Man changes up the formula in a fresh and modern way courtesy of Leigh Whannell.
Whannell may be relatively new to the directing game but he’s been a Hollywood player for years. For most of his career, Whannell was a close collaborator with horror director James Wan (known for the Saw franchise, The Conjuring, and Insidious films). Whannell co-wrote, produced, and starred in the original Saw, a film that cost slightly over $1 million to make but accumulated over 100 times that at the global box-office. The unprecedented success of that movie jumpstarted both men’s careers and led to years of further collaboration.
While his buddy Wan was preoccupied helming The Conjuring 2, Whannell made the leap to the directing chair with Insidious: Chapter 3. The film surprised both critics and audiences and performed incredibly well with just a $10 million budget. With the clout he garnered from that picture, Whannell was able to accumulate a meager $5 million to produce a passion project, Upgrade (If you haven’t seen Upgrade, stop reading this article right now and watch it!). That film showcased Whannell’s ability to create incredible action-sequences and immense world-building with a relatively micro-budget.
The Invisible Man proves yet again that even with a small budget, an ingenious director can create a film that looks more expensive than it actually is. It’s often said that less is more with horror, and Whannell uses slow suspense and implication to terrorize his audience while allowing the viewer’s imagination to do the rest
The concept of an “invisible man” may be inherently silly, but the film’s writing and acting help to anchor the story. Elisabeth Moss delivers one of the best performances of her career as an emotionally damaged woman dealing with the lingering trauma of a toxic relationship. Her slow transformation from vulnerable victim to bad-ass retributionist is really something to behold. Moss is yet another lead actress to deliver an Oscar-worthy horror performance in recent years (Toni Collette in Hereditary, Florence Pugh in Midsommar). Hopefully, this time around the Academy will get it right.
The Invisible Man is half suspense-fest and half action thrill-ride. It was truly better than it had any right to be, and I can’t wait to see what Leigh Whannell pulls off next.