Elisabeth Moss has the best “resting tormented face” in the business. So she’s perfectly cast as a abused, haunted wife certain her dead control-freak husband is manipulating her life and attacking her and those close to her in “The Invisible Man.”
Leigh Whannell, screenwriter/actor of the “Saw” and “Insidious” movies, has written and directed a brilliantly-acted, thematically-simple, technically-adept thriller of genuine suspense, a movie where the faintest noise in dead silence chills you to the marrow.
And Moss is the EveryWoman on screen, terrified and shocked, and in her most haunted moments resigned to this terror that only she believes is being visited on her.
Cecilia is introduced in bed, staring at the clock that reads 3:42 a.m. This is her chance. She slips her sleeping husband’s arm away from her, quietly calls his name, and washes out the glass she used to drug him.
Grab the “bug out” bag with her ID, cash and a few clothes, redirect a security camera so she can be sure he hasn’t leapt up to chase her, try to get the dog to understand she’s not coming back, and then flee the modernist, remote, cliffside Northern California mansion. When you’re desperate, climbing a wall and scrambling through woods for a narrow escape is the price you’re willing to pay.
We get a taste of the abuser Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is. A big taste.
It’s no wonder that Cecilia doesn’t stay with her sister (Harriet Dyer). She lays low with a friend of sis. James (Aldis Hodge) is a single-dad cop with a daughter (Storm Reid) ready for college. It’s all he can do to get her to open the door of this “safe” house.
His reassurances that “He’s not out there” are cold comfort. Even the news that Adrian killed himself days later isn’t reassuring. She knows him. And when she fled the house, we glimpsed its Tony Starke lab downstairs. Adrian’s source of wealth was optical technology.
If anybody could fake his death, it’d be him. And when weird stuff starts happening in the safe house — a stove turned up here, sheets pinned to the floor by an unseen foot there — she’s sure he’s back, stalking her in some Harry Potter cloak of invisibility.
Her sister all but rolls her eyes. James the cop can’t reason with her. “Don’t let him win by bringing him back to life.”
And the dead man’s lawyer-brother (Michael Dorman) can’t convince her that this tricky inheritance Adrian left her isn’t a trap, and that her late husband is in “that urn over there” in his office.
“The Invisible Man” is a true tour de force for Moss, who is starting to earn those (“Her Smell”) on the big screen as well as the small one. She lets us see Cecilia unravel, all but taking us through the stages of death and dying as Cecilia is assaulted, scared out of her wits and traumatized by the degree of “control” HE still exercises over her.
If there’s a big flaw in the film, it’s the common one of the genre. We aren’t given enough doubt about what she is experiencing — real “invisibility,” old-fashioned haunting or all in her medicated and increasingly-deranged head.
Whannell also slaps an anti-climactic coda on the tale that feels as unnecessary as as saying, “See, she looks SCARED!”
But with a lot of silence, some wonderful, minimalist effects doled out for maximum shock value, and a focused, fear-filled turn by Moss, Whannell has updated a timeless title with a genuinely horrific message. We’re never alone. We’re being watched and “controlled,” even if we were never said “Til death do us part” to the wrong spouse.
MPAA Rating: R for some strong bloody violence, and language.
Cast:Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman and Oliver-Jackson-Cohen
Credits:Written and directed by Leigh Whannell. A Universal release.
Running time: 2:04