After much doubt and skepticism, I saw The Invisible Man recently, and I’m happy to say it was much better than I thought it would turn out to be. Let’s take a minute and go over a brief history lesson about classic horror movie monsters. Anyone recall the 2017 reboot of The Mummy with Tom Cruise and Russell Crow playing Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde? Yes, he was supposed to be some kind of Dark Universe Hulk (lame) and Tom Cruise’s character was just, well, Tom Cruise doing things he usually does in his other movies. That includes running, fighting, doing crazy stunts, and more running. His character was bland, simple as that, and the Mummy was some Enchantress ripoff who was nothing like the original Mummy. The movie was bad, very bad, which is why it tanked.
Speaking of a Dark Universe, that Mummy movie was intended to launch off another cinematic universe. What would’ve made this cinematic universe so different? A Dark Universe is mostly made up of the classic movie monsters from old horror novels. Yes, I’m talking about Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, and of course, The Invisible Man. Universal was pulling for The Mummy to be the beginning of something big so they can follow in the footsteps of something like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sounds like a good idea on paper, but The Mummy destroyed any hopes of an extended Dark Universe.
I say they attempted to follow in the footsteps of the MCU because that’s exactly what they tried to do. The Mummy felt less like a horror movie about a dangerous monster and more like a desperate attempt to set up another major franchise. I suppose the best why they tried to do that was to copy the MCU. The monster had an overabundance of magical powers and reminded me of Enchantress from Suicide Squad. How that relates to the classic Mummy we all know and love is beyond me, but it didn’t stop there. The movie’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde was, like I said, a Dark Universe Hulk. Jekyll was the timid scientist, while Hyde was the monstrous juggernaut.
This might’ve worked in a reboot for a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film, but not for a Dark Universe. It was painfully obvious that this would-be franchise wanted to turn all of the classic monsters into some kind of “Dark Monsters Avengers” team. That’s something no one asked for, but almost every classic monster was intended to be a part of the team.
Javier Bardem was apparently going to be Frankenstein and Johnny Depp was slated to be, you guessed it, The Invisible Man. His version was going to be similar to the 1897 novel by H.G. Wells. If you didn’t read that book or see the 1933 film, just go back to the Hollow Man movie with Kevin Bacon. His character is a carbon copy of the main character from the novel (called Griffin) where he’s a brilliant, but ambitious scientist who invents a serum that turns him invisible. However, he is unable to reverse the process and it drives him insane, causing him to go on a murderous rampage. Depp’s version would’ve been very similar to that, but since The Mummy bombed, that’s one version we’ll never see.
This didn’t stop The Invisible Man from revisiting the big-screen, however, and this raised some eyebrows. Firstly, it easily sounded like a recycled concept that’s been seen and done time and time again. Then the trailer came and was surprisingly good, but gave more away than we would’ve like to know. What drew me to it was who the film’s narrative was focusing on. The Invisible Man himself wouldn’t be the main protagonist, but a woman being stalked by him. Cecilia Kass, played brilliantly by Elisabeth Moss, was a fearful woman trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with Adrian Griffin (The Invisible Man). This version of the character was a wealthy optics engineer and a violent sociopath who was terribly abusive to Cecilia. Her main goal was to just escape from him and rebuild her life.
This kind of element was never included in any Invisible Man story, movie or novel. It took the focus away from the title character and shifted it to an ordinary woman. This different kind of perspective didn’t hurt the movie thought, it actually made it better. Director Leigh Whannell boldly chose a more tangible element to serve as his story for this popular horror tale. Someone desperately trying to escape a toxic relationship is unfortunately a very relatable subject and it’s exactly what Cecilia goes through the entire movie. After she succeeds in escaping from him in a chillingly suspenseful scene, she believes she is free, only to be stalked by him while he is invisible. His goal, however, is not to kill her, but to gaslight her and destroy what she loves in order to lure her back in his thrall.
This is a rare goal for a villain in a horror movie. Think about most of the horror movies we have today. They usually include some kind of supernatural evil spirit that wants to torment an innocent family just because it wants to. That can be scary, but honestly, it’s getting old. Supernatural evil spirits just aren’t as scary as someone like The Invisible Man. Why? Well, the answer is simple, because he is a monster who can exist in the real world. He doesn’t use a serum, but technology to make himself invisible and with his violent tendencies, he can be a truly terrifying villain. Even before he became invisible, he was a despicable domestic abuser with a need to control everything around him. This makes him more frightening than the monsters from The Nun or Insidious, as they are all basically the same kind of cliche monster.
The Invisible Man isn’t a horror movie that relies on jump scares, but suspense. The Invisible Man slowly breaks down Cecilia’s sanity by destroying her personal life, including the ones of her loved ones. Robbing someone of their sanity is one of the worst crimes one can commit and this movie showed a prime example of it. Cecilia is viewed as a lunatic by her friends and family, being forced to commit to a psychiatric hospital and no one believes she is being stalked by Griffin.
At this point, it was clear that this horror movie became one unlike any other. There were no evil spirits or undead monsters, just a women trying to escape from a violent partner. By the end of the film, she finally gets her revenge and kills him, but his abuse stuck with her. She emerged a stronger person in the end and that’s the end of the road of recovering from a toxic relationship. The Invisible Man broke the regular formula many other horror movies follow and proved how telling more relatable stories can work for horror movies. If Universal wants to give the Dark Universe another try, they need to stick with the formula that this movie had to be successful. In time, it will become a horror classic.