[Screen It]


(2020) (Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge) (R)

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Horror: A woman tries to escape from her abusive tech-mogul boyfriend, only to discover he's haunting her as an invisible man.

Cecilia Kass (ELISABETH MOSS) has had enough of her abusive and uber-controlling optics-tech mogul boyfriend, Adrian Griffin (OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN), and thus drugs him, sneaks out in the middle of the night, and gets a ride to safety from her sister, Emily (HARRIET DYER). She ends up staying with her longtime cop friend, James Lanier (ALDIS HODGE), a single dad to teenager Sydney (STORM REID).

Suffering from PTSD and worrying that Adrian will somehow find her, Cecilia is relieved when she learns that he committed suicide. Not only that, but she also learns from his brother, Tom (MICHAEL DORMAN), that Adrian left her $5 million in his will to be paid in large monthly installments. Even so, he got so deep into her head that she can't shake him, and thus occasionally has sensations that he's still around.

And that only gets worse when she begins to experience weird physical things that not only make her question her sanity, but also whether he might still be alive and using some sort of invention to make him invisible to the naked eye. As that progressively gets worse, everyone close to Cecilia think she might be losing it, all while she tries to prove that Adrian is somehow haunting her as an invisible man.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10

I don't know who first said it and there are variations of the saying, but there's a definite truth and certainly a lot of wisdom about not letting someone live rent-free in your head. Of course, that refers to anyone obsessing about what another person has said about or done to them, or even just imagining either or both of those things. Unless there's direct evidence to the contrary, that other person likely isn't even thinking about the "victim" and thus such obsession is a waste of energy.

Even so, others can and sometimes do get into people's heads and under their skin, especially if psychological and/or physical abuse has occurred. And while that person might no longer be around, their presence is still felt. You know, like they're still nearby but invisible. Hmmm...that sounds like the makings for a movie and it's definitely part of what makes the latest version of "The Invisible Man" a step above what many most likely will be expecting.

In it, Elisabeth Moss plays Cecilia Kass, a woman who's apparently in an abusive relationship (we hear about that, but don't see it firsthand, at least until things finally really get going) and thus sneaks out of the seaside home of her tech-mogul boyfriend, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). She ends up staying with her longtime cop friend James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) who tries to help her through her PTSD and agoraphobia, but the boyfriend has been living rent-free in her head for so long (something Adrian's brother -- played by Michael Dorman -- later says his sibling was so good at) that she expects he's going to pop up at any moment.

In an unexpected twist, Cecilia learns that Adrian has not only killed himself, but also left her monthly payout installments that will total $5 million, something she can use to help James' teenage daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid), continue her education after high school. Even so, Cecilia can't shake the expectation and now new sensation that he's somehow still around. As that progressively worsens, both James and Cecilia's sister, Emily (Harriet Dyer), worry about whether there's a hole in her marble bag.

Of course, given the title and the various iterations of H.G. Wells' famous story that have come and gone over the decades -- including Paul Verhoeven's "Hollow Man" from 2000 that upped the ante in terms of R-rated brutality -- we know the titular character (whoever he or she may be) is likely going to prove that Cecilia's issues are more than just mental manifestations. Thankfully, writer/director Leigh Whannell (known for "Insidious: Chapter 3," "Upgrade" and writing many of the "Saw" movies) get excellent mileage out of the thematic material, paranoia and things that go bump in the night (and day) as the protagonist goes down the rabbit hole of no one believing her as things just keep getting worse.

Most horror movies typically have to keep their bogeymen and monsters in the dark or at least dimly lit settings to evoke maximum scare potential effect. But just like Verhoeven's version, the filmmaker here is no longer shackled to the old style of "showing" his invisible character with layers of clothing to cover the invisibility. Thus, the villain can hide in plain sight and using both camera placement as well as static shots, our eyes are forced to scan the screen for where the title character might be lurking and thus strike from. And some of those moments, following perfect set-ups, are quite startling and even shocking.

Moss is perfectly cast and expertly conveys a damaged woman metaphorically and literally stalked and tormented by her abusive and controlling lover. Supporting performances from Hodge, Reid and the rest of the cast are good, while tech credits are quite effective from both practical and visual special effects standpoints, especially considering the reported overall budget of just $7 million.

Sure, there are some nitpicky issues here and there if one thinks too much, but this is one of those flicks where you should turn off your brain for those (yes, thus making them "invisible"), while paying attention to the nicely layered subtext that envelops the proceedings and lifts this offering a notch or two above what one's used to experiencing with such horror films. I was pleasantly surprised about how effective "The Invisible Man" is and thus give it a 6.5 out of 10 rating.

Reviewed February 25, 2020 / Posted February 28, 2020

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