The Dark Universe may be dead, but The Invisible Man lives! No, really, that's the plot of director Leigh Whannell's reimagining of The Invisible Man, which sees (or doesn't see) abusive Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) fake his death to torment Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) from the gaslighting realm of invisibility. Now the first reviews are starting to hit the internet after a few great trailers set the stage and it seems like the consensus is positive: currently sitting at 88 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, the film looks to be horror with something to say, done well.
Refitting the story to be from the perspective of a woman hunted by The Invisible Man — making the mad scientist into a true villain — gives the tale a lot more thematic depth than its 1933 film origins or H.G. Wells' source material. Spinning these iconic monsters in new, personal directions is the whole point of the new Universal Monsters strategy so it seems like The Invisible Man is a great start to that new era.
But let's allow the critics to explain in their own words:
Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter writes that the film "stakes a claim for new mystery-horror territory worthy of a talent like Elisabeth Moss, who amplifies the qualities of the script with a top-shelf woman-in-severe-jeopardy performance." Moss' performance is a highlight for many critics, with McCarthy one of her biggest proponents. Aside from praising the anxiety-cranking ablities of Whannell, he writes that Moss' performance is "increasingly dominated by degrees of disorientation and general out-of-it-ness in ways that remind of some Hitchcock heroines, notably Ingrid Bergman in Notorious." Not often is a horror star compared to Bergman.
Mashable's Angie Han calls the film "a solid thriller with some nifty effects, a bunch of well-earned scares, and a riveting lead performance." However, she says that the film trains viewers so well to look for any hint of the invisible enemy that the flaws in the story and visuals stand out like handprints on a fogged window. While Han liked the movie overall, these cast a shadow over the proceedings. "The Invisible Man," she writes, "is a simple story told in a relatively realistic visual style. There's nowhere for these blemishes to hide."
Taking those qualms into consideration, there were even more glowing reviews. Owen Gleiberman of Variety writes that "The Invisible Man is devious fun, with a message that's organic enough to hit home: that in a toxic relationship, what you see is what you get — but what gets to you is what you don't see." He praised the scares (which "don’t just goose you; they have an emotional import") and the direction (Whannell helmed a "logistical mind-game suspense film staged with killer verve"), relentlessly pleased with this entry into the social-horror canon.
Jude Dry is on the other side of things, writing one of the lone dissenting reviews over at IndieWire. Dry calls the film "more like a thriller than a horror, with the mystery of Adrian’s powers becoming the main (and dissatisfying) reveal." While still mentioning Moss' "considerable talents," Dry didn't find much to enjoy in a film that simply wasn't bloody or scary enough for them.
But The AV Club's Jesse Hassenger proves that positivity towards the film is the consensus, calling The Invisible Man "a sleek upgrade of [Whannell's] past horror work." And yes, it was scary enough for him. "In place of shots from the point of view of the invisible, the camera pans across rooms or down hallways with an uneasy searching that recalls the kind of refined spookhouse horror that was once stock in trade for Whannell and his former collaborator, James Wan," Hassenger writes. He also echoes that Moss classes up a film that could otherwise be lost in B-movie schlock. With her performance and the cleverness of its narrative angling, The Invisible Man is a "striking and tense" entry into the Universal Monster canon.
The Invisible Man will be entirely visible in theaters on Feb. 28.