Back in 2014, with Marvel having proven the sheer box office ker-ching of a long running, multiple character franchise, Universal looked at their back-catalogue of properties and found their iconic monster movies. It started with Dracula Untold, which sucked (sorry), and then followed that rare occurrence of a Tom Cruise movie that sank at the box office without a trace in the form of The Mummy. So The Invisible Man was originally meant to star Johnny Depp in the title role but looked destined to do exactly what it said on the tin, remain unseen.
Thankfully it didn’t and has instead materialised with a new spin on the concept, one that evokes both a supernatural horror but, more pertinently, a skew on a certain ‘90s thriller.
The film opens with a breathless escape. Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss) creeps from room to room collecting her things as her husband sleeps, drugged, in bed. Yes, we’re firmly in Sleeping With The Enemy territory here. But there is something strange about said house, it feels like somewhere Tony Stark would live complete with a basement filled with high-tech gadgetry.
Her escape complete Cecilia moves in with her friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). But all is not what it seems and Cecilia begins to believe her husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is still present in her life as strange things and dangerous events start to occur.
The Invisible Man comes from writer-director Leigh Whannell, the mind behind the original Saw. So the film is packed with smart scares and a rich, textured mystery that doesn’t keep you guessing but does keep you on edge. It’s far removed from Paul Verhoeven’s Hollow Man but, as all good Invisible Man stories should, plays inventively with the madness that comes with being not seen. And it is here that The Invisible Man really thrives, in building a level of psychosis albeit fleetingly.
The set-pieces are often Hitchcockian in the way they build and their visual execution is simple yet hugely effective. There are one or two missteps along the way but for the most part this is a resoundingly fun thriller that surprises in some of the jaw-dropping decisions it takes. That it seems to delicately set up a follow-up could play nicely into the idea of madness, should another brave filmmaker choose to take up the mantle.
Inventive, often thrilling and surprisingly shocking, The Invisible Man is a solid, Friday night thriller.