By Nicolas Rapold in the May-June 2020 Issue
Universal was one studio that reacted to theater closings by dropping new films onto streaming, among them The Invisible Man, first released on the eve of March’s COVID-onset mayhem. While its jump-scares and ghoulish violence play well in a boisterous theatrical crowd, writer-director Leigh Whannell’s POV-shifting twist on the H.G. Wells classic also proves potent for lone viewing at home—between the isolating gaslight premise, and its treatment of the world (and its protagonist’s psyche) as one unending haunted house. Elisabeth Moss plays a tech-bro sociopath’s tormented partner who flees his antiseptic seaside mansion but continues to be terrorized by him in phantom-like form. Whannell turns the subtext of so much psychological horror into the text: Moss’s character fights for her life in an abusive relationship, with one scene involving a giallo-worthy restaurant decapitation that leaves her grieving, powerless, and accused all at once. Twists follow, but the story’s sensations stand.
Nicolas Rapold is the editor-in-chief of Film Comment and hosts The Film Comment Podcast.