“Mulan”, “Emma”, “Top Gun”, “Dr. Doolittle” and, yes,another “Godzilla” are gracing the screens of theatres in 2020, joining the crazed Hollywood crusade of remakes falsely being knighted in the name of nostalgia. Easy to write and cast and stirring feel-good false memories of the good-old days, remakes seem to be the easiest way to make a quick buck in la la land.
“The Invisible Man”, on the other hand, is a refreshing twist, reminding audience that, sometimes, remakes can actually offer a needed new perspective on a beloved story. The original children’s tale, crafted by H.G. Wells in 1897, was a pioneer in the realm of science-fiction. It told the tale of a mad-scientist optics expert who invents an invisibility suit. Drunk off his new power, the scientist uses the suit to loot, murder and eventually attempt to provoke a new “reign of terror” until he is betrayed and brought down by a former colleague.
Since its original publication, the story has worn various hats in the world of entertainment, ranging from a trashy early aughts thriller, a 50s TV series produced by National Geographic, an elegant by-the-book 30s adaption, and a 1984 Soviet science fiction film; however, no hat can top that of Leigh Whannell’s most recent attempt.
Over the years, through the various retellings of the story, the plot of “The Invisible Man” has made a notable shift to include a fiancé of the invisible mad scientist. Though usually the fiancé is more damsel-in-distress/concerned girlfriend than actual necessary character, Whannell’s most recent adaptation relabels the role of the fiancé by placing the character, named Cecilia, as the narrator of the story, depicting her efforts to escape the abusive grip of her invisible man, Adrianne.
From the get-go, “The Invisible Man” puts viewers on the edge of their seats, opening with the scene of Cecilia silently sneaking out of Adrianne’s mid-century modern prison. The movie continues as Cecilia realizes that although she may not see Adrianne anymore, he is there unseen, lurking in every corner and exerting a terrifying amount of control on Cecilia’s life.
The fresh perspective offers a new voice to Cecilia as she begins the tale haunted by the reverberating effects of domestic violence and ends the movie powerful and confident, with a dark, almost evil edge that counters most movie heroines’ innocent, got-the-guy, happily ever after ending.
Highlighting the real-world invisible grasp of abusive relationships, the film depicts the continued suffering of a domestic assault victim after leaving her abuser. The tale is familiar to victims in similar situation who find it hard to escape their abuser’s mental imprint.
Whanell utilizes not only the perspective of a paranoid heroine, but also the camera as her darting, suspicious gaze. Using camera shots to follow Cecilia’s eyes, Whannell builds paranoia by ominously panning the camera to empty spaces, like a blank wall or corner, leaving a disturbingly unsettled feeling at the bottom of any viewer’s stomach. While there is nothing obviously wrong with the scene, the audience’s expectation of horror’s traditional jump scare combined with the building paranoia of the ever-present invisible man is more frightening than a Tarantino gore-fest or a flash shot of a ghost from any “Conjuring” movie.
Whannell’s “The Invisible Man”, though technically a remake, is told through a completely new lens, breathing new life into a scary movie cliché and telling a story scarier than any monster under the bed.
Though technically still in theatres, viewing it in that environment is currently illegal. Luckily, “The Invisible Man” is also available on Amazon Prime, making it a quarantine approved activity.