Moss: Raw, real and riveting in ‘Invisible Man’

March 7, 2020

After 2018’s “The Mummy” was pronounced dead on arrival at the box office, so too were its studio’s hopes of creating a so-called Dark Universe to launch a number of interconnected horror tales from Universal Studios’ vault of movie monsters from the ‘30s to the ‘50s. 

One of the first post-”Mummy” movies was to be “The Invisible Man,” originally casting Johnny Depp as the unseen lead. Since the Dark Universe idea was buried, Universal decided to parcel out its properties to up-and-coming filmmakers and allow them to create their own small-budget visions of its classic tales. 

“Invisible” was handed to the prodigious Blumhouse Pictures, known for keeping its budgets tight but providing plenty of creative flexibility for filmmakers. They farmed it out to one Leigh Whannell, the writer of the first three “Saw” films” and director of one of 2018’s best unseen films, “Upgrade.”

Also serving as the film’s writer, Whannell takes the focus away from the title characters and hands it over to Cecelia (played by Elisabeth Moss), a young woman escaping an abusive, toxic relationship with wealthy Adrian (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen), described as a “brilliant world leader in the field of optics.”

And even though she’s relocated with the help of her sister (played by Harriet Dyer) to the home of James (played by Aldis Hodge), Cecilia can’t escape the feeling that she’s being watched by her violent, controlling ex. 

James is a cop who lives with his teen daughter, but Cecilia’s increasingly erratic behavior related to an invisible stalker starts to fracture his trust, as it may threaten his daughter’s safety. Meanwhile, Cecilia herself relentlessly tries to prove Adrian is still manipulating her despite being, quite literally, out of the picture. 

By slimming the film down to its psychological roots instead of a bloated orgy of computer-generated effects like “The Mummy,” “The Invisible Man” crafts a timely, unnerving exercise that grips from its opening sequence to its satisfying finale. 

Whannell brilliantly frames scenes that are just off-center of the action, leaving audiences to comb over every detail of the background for the slightest of movements. Additionally, he will let the camera linger after the actors leave the scene, casting the slightest of doubts as to what we may or may not see. 

Anchoring it all is a ferocious performance by Elisabeth Moss. Resembling a young Jodie Foster, Moss would most likely earn awards talk for her performance were this not a horror film. She simultaneously appears vulnerable, yet determined, but you can also see why she may appear delusional to everyone around her. She’s raw, real and riveting. 

And while “The Invisible Man” is solidly crafted and executed, it’s because of Moss that we can’t keep our eyes off it. 

  • Rob is the head of the English and Communications Department at Delaware Technical Community College, where he teaches film. He is also one of the founders of the Rehoboth Beach Film Society. Email him at

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