Friday, February 28, 2020

'The Invisible Man': #MeBoo

"It takes control and slowly tears you apart."

The Invisible Man, Universal's latest re-imagining of one of its classic movie monsters, couldn't be released during a more perfect time, the same week that Harvey Weinstein, a real-life monster, was  convicted of rape and sexual assault. Ironically, it's also his conviction that has me hoping movies like it won't need to be made anymore.

And that's not because the movie is bad! It's a very solid thriller. It's because the story is clearly influenced by the #MeToo movement, and serves as an elaborate bit of wish fulfillment fantasy for the untold numbers of women whose reports of rape and harassment are not believed. Perhaps now women's revenge can happen in the courtrooms and not on movie screens.

In the meantime, we have The Invisible Man, which wastes no time getting started, opening with an extremely well-executed bit of suspense, as we follow our heroine, Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) creeping through a modern glass-walled, seaside mansion. She's drugged the man sleeping next to her, and it's clear she's trying to make an escape. A few things are established during that escape: whoever she's fleeing from is very rich, has some kind of high tech lab in his basement, and keeps a shock collar on his dog, so clearly, an asshole.

Once she's ensconced in the Oakland home of her friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid), Cecilia is a bundle of nerves, too scared to even walk as far as the curbside mailbox. Her sister, Alice (Harriet Dyer) is finally able to get some of Cecilia's story out of her: her husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), was controlling, manipulative, and violent. He would have killed her before letting her leave.

Cecilia's paranoia that Adrian will find her is temporarily relieved when his brother (and lawyer) Tom (Michael Dorman) informs her that Adrian killed himself, and has left her a small fortune. But Cecilia is skeptical. Adrian wasn't the kind of man to just give up like that. And what is that creeping presence she can't seem to shake when the house is quiet and she's alone?

A movie like this can be frustrating, as we spend a huge chunk of it waiting for Cecilia to figure out what we already know, but Elisabeth Moss keeps it from getting monotonous. She gives the kind of performance that, were it not in a horror movie, would get all the nominations and awards. There's absolutely no vanity in it; for the majority of the film she looks like hell, alternating between terrified and fight mode, pleading with everyone to just believe her, no matter how crazy her story may sound. (They don't.)

The Invisible Man runs the genre gamut, employing aspects of horror, science fiction, and suspense. The scares play out like a haunted house movie might, and director Leigh Whannell fills his widescreen image with plenty of spooky empty space that may or may not actually be empty. The booming soundtrack by Benjamin Wallfisch also amps up the terror (it literally made the seats in the theater vibrate).

Ultimately, the horror at the center of The Invisible Man is both primal and timely. What do you do when you are being terrorized by a monster no one else can (or is willing) to see? And what can you do when people start to believe you're the real monster?

You fight. With all the tools available to you.