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SYFY WIRE the invisible man

'Invisible Man' Director on How He Was ‘Jedi Mind Tricked’ Into 2020 Reboot - Stream It on Peacock

You don't need to see his identification...because it's invisible!

By Josh Weiss
How The Invisible Man Flips the Dark Universe on its Head

By the time 2019 rolled around, Universal Pictures was in serious trouble on the monster front.

Dracula Untold (2014) and The Mummy (2019) — two high-profile attempts to reignite the studio's famous catalogue of legacy horror properties on the big screen — had fallen well below expectations, both critically and financially. The Mummy in particular was positioned as the first entry in a mega-blockbuster mythos of interconnected creature features placing a contemporary spin on those titles that had forever intertwined the Universal name with the horror genre between the 1930s and '50s.

RELATED: Which movie Mummy would win in a sarcophagus smackdown? The original, remake, or reboot?

The now-infamous Dark Universe initiative (which included Bride of Frankenstein movie starring Javier Bardem and plans for Johnny Depp to disappear, quite literally, for a reboot of The Invisible Man) fell to the wayside as the studio went back to the cinematic drawing board. Universal's coveted library of silver screen terrors certainly had the brand recognition, but how could it be leveraged into a box office success?

The answer was quite simple: scrap the shared narrative altogether and focus on standalone, director-driven projects bankrolled with much smaller budgets to significantly minimize risk. And who better to partner with than Blumhouse, a production banner known for churning out massive horror hits on shoestring budgets?

And so, the two companies turned their sights on Leigh Whannell, creator of the Saw and Insidious franchises, recently hot off his second directorial effort with 2018's Upgrade (a well-regarded sci-fi actioner made for a pittance of $3 million). They wanted him to direct a new take on The Invisible Man (now streaming on Peacock), even though Whanell wasn't actively pursuing it at the time.

"It was weird, this film came about in a really random way. It wasn’t like I was plugged into some kind of world-building," the filmmaker revealed to CinemaBlend in early 2020. "I had just finished Upgrade, they called me in for a meeting with some of these Universal and Blumhouse execs… I go to this meeting, and they didn’t really talk about Upgrade. I mean, they said they liked it and they moved on. So, I’m sitting on this couch thinking 'What am I here for? What is this meeting about?' And they started talking about The Invisible Man."

He accepted the job with enthusiastic vigor, though it took some time to realize that he'd fallen victim to a Hollywood-sized brand of reverse psychology. 

"It was an ambush you walk into. I’m such a doe-eyed fawn in the crosshairs of a rifle that I just sit there and fall right into their trap," Whannell continued. "They Jedi mind-tricked me into thinking that it was my idea. It was literally like Obi-Wan waving his head and saying, 'This is the movie you want to make.' I walked out of there like — damn right I want to make that film. But I loved the experience so I’m glad they tricked me into making it because I had a really rewarding film experience."

One of the last bona fide hits of the pre-COVID age, The Invisible Man grossed $144.4 million worldwide against a meager budget of $7 million. Aside from the title and general premise, the finished product bore almost no resemblance to the H.G. Wells novel of the same name that inspired the 1933 film with Claude Raines. Whannell's interpretation cleverly brought the 123-year-old source material into the modern day with a tension-filled odyssey through the dark corners of toxic masculinity and the gaslighting of significant others.

Elisabeth Moss's tortured performance as a woman trying to outrun the vindictive shadow of her abusive ex-boyfriend (played by The Haunting of Hill House's Oliver Jackson-Cohen) — a man who strategically and callously inflicts wounds not visible to the human eye — is an absolute marvel to behold. Well-deserving of a near-perfect 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Invisible Man is now streaming on Peacock. And if you're jonesing for more fresh takes on old monster classics, be sure to check out Renfield — now playing in theaters everywhere. Click here to purchase tickets!