In the mid-2010s, Universal had grand plans to create a Dark Universe of MCU-level proportions that would incorporate their classic monsters into a shared universe via big budget tentpole movies that would rake in all the dough in the land. Johnny Depp was set to star as The Invisible Man in the latest adaptation of the classic H.G. Wells’ book, but following the disastrous performance of Tom Cruise’s The Mummy, all plans for future movies were scrapped. Enter writer/director Leigh Whannell (the Saw series, Upgrade) and super producer Jason Blum (Get Out) in early 2019 with an inventive, low-budget standalone script that inspired Universal to establish a whole new philosophy for these properties. Blum has some of the highest return on investments in the business because he firmly believes in the less-is-more philosophy when it comes to horror. The gamble paid off as The Invisible Man has grossed 18x its budget worldwide and stands as the fifth highest grossing film of the year thus far.
This newest iteration of the story focus on Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss), a woman who escapes an abusive relationship with an incredibly wealthy optics engineer, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, The Haunting of Hill House). Weeks after narrowly escaping from Adrian, a visibly fragile Cecilia is staying with friend and detective James Lanier (Aldis Hodge). One day her sister arrives and informs Cecilia that Adrian took his own life and has left her a sizable fortune. Cecilia has difficulty believing that Adrian is truly gone, but slowly begins to move forward with rebuilding her life. As she makes strides to get back to her normal self, strange things begin to happen around the house from stove-top fires to missing objects. Cecilia believes it is Adrian back in her life to psychologically torture her, but no one believes her since they know Adrian is dead. The movie does not take long before revealing that people really should give women more credit when they say there is something astray.
The Invisible Man is not a particularly scary movie in the traditional sense, but the sense of dread and unease you feel throughout is thrilling. On the surface, you have a movie that does not take the Hollow Man approach where you see the outline of Adrian as he stalks Cecilia. This works incredibly well as you are on the same page as Cecilia where any empty room could hold unknown terror and nowhere is truly safe. You see the occasional objects floating, but for the most part your brain is doing the heavy lifting with the terror. Although the movie has a pretty straightforward title, the actual meat of the story does not solely focus on him. The real anxiety-inducing moments are those of psychological gaslighting that lead to Cecilia’s sanity being questioned. The fear of not being believed is real for everyone, but this movie does an expert level job of portraying the ways in which women are often marginalized and doubted. The movie works on a base level with the thrills it provides, but certain segments of the audience will likely respond more viscerally to specific elements of the plot.
This is a film that easily could have been campy or unbelievable if one aspect of the production had been phoned in, but luckily all of the obvious missteps are avoided. The not-so-secret weapon of The Invisible Man is the otherworldly talented Elisabeth Moss. You completely believe you are seeing the shell of a formerly happy, normal woman just by looking into her sunken eyes. The torture she withstands throughout the movie keeps her spiraling, and Elisabeth sells it every step of the way. The direction of Leigh Whannell is very impressive with beautifully staged sequences and impressive cinematography executed on a relatively small budget. The only issue with the movie is the relationship between Cecilia and her sister. This movie is already pretty lengthy, but showing more a sisterly bond between the two would have made certain aspects of the movie work better in the end. This iteration of The Invisible Man works incredibly well by making the protagonist a fully-realized character who the audience can relate to, thus making watching her in peril all the more effective. If this is the type of story Universal has planned for the rest of their classic monsters, I say bring it on!
The Invisible Man makes the most of its native 4K 2160p/Dolby Vision presentation on this 4K UHD Blu-Ray disc. As the director notes in the commentary, having an invisible antagonist in your films negates the need for the film to be inherently dark to conjure up scares, but there are still a lot of dark sequences in the movie. This is when the presentation especially shows its worth, as the black levels are incredibly deep and detailed with virtually all digital noise absent from the screen. The 4K presentation provides a depth of field that just cannot be replicated as well with the accompanying Blu-Ray. Brighter scenes like those in a mental health facility similarly wow with an intense clarity and a strong handle of white levels that show no evidence of blooming. Skin tones look very realistic throughout and show a great amount of facial detail. Colors look more natural in this presentation even though there are not very many moments that veer away from the neutral color palette. This is an excellent 4K UHD presentation that offers a noticeable uptick in clarity and depth.
This disc comes equipped with an incredibly effective Dolby Atmos presentation that will keep you on edge. From the beginning, you can tell this is going to be a worthwhile track as the crashing waves on the rocks provide some nice activity in the low end as well as the surround speakers. Sounds are appropriately rendered with precise directionality from the more active scenes to the intensely still scenes where you can hear the faintest activity. There is an enjoyable, moody score from Benjamin Wallfisch that envelopes the room when appropriate. Dialogue is presented perfectly clear without ever being overwhelmed by any of the competing sonic elements. Heavy falling rain provides an all-encompassing soundscape that kicks in throughout all the speakers. The mix here is very well done and makes for an exciting listen throughout.
- Deleted Scenes: Nine scenes not in the movie totaling 13-minutes are presented here. Most of these were wisely cut out of an already long movie, but a couple of scenes that developed Cecilia’s relationship with her sister would have made their dynamic make more sense.
- Moss Manifested: A four-minute look at the incredible Elisabeth Moss and the unique quality she brought to the character of Cecilia.
- Director’s Journey with Leigh Whannell: An eleven-minute look at director Leigh Whannell that turns into a broad overview of behind-the-scenes footage from the first day of shooting to wrap. Some of the details shown are expanded upon in the audio commentary.
- The Players: A five-minute look at the ensemble cast with interviews from the cast and crew about what drew them to the character and what went into inhabiting them.
- Timeless Terror: A three-minute conversation on the lasting power of the original Invisible Man film and why it was necessary to update the story for modern audiences. There are clips from the original film that are compared to this new version.
- Audio Commentary: Writer/Director Leigh Whannell tackles this track on his own, but offers a lot of insightful tidbits on the production of the movie. There is a truly hilarious bit involving a dog trainer that put a smile on my face. There are many instances where he tries to make a joke that lands flat, but the actual information provided makes up for this.
The Invisible Man offers one of the best arguments for why remakes are not inherently bad if the filmmaker has a creative reason to be tackling it. Writer/Director Leigh Whannell channels some important issues into an effectively creepy film that has one of the most talented actors around, Elisabeth Moss, selling her performance with everything she has. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment offers up a reference quality A/V presentation along with some entertaining extras. This is a disc that really must be added to your collection. Highly Recommended
The Invisible Man is currently available to purchase on 4K UHD, Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.