In the opening moments of Leigh Whannel's creative reinvention of The Invisible Man, we see Cecilia begin her plan to sneak away from her husband Adrien. Adrien will eventually become the titular character but he is a monster far before that. The trauma that he has caused is all over Elisabeth Moss's expressive face. She barely gets away from him. Two weeks later he has apparently killed himself but Cecilia doesn't believe she has finally escaped his control.
This opening moment recontextualizes H.G. Wells' 1987 novel and the James Whale film. The film shifts the monster into that of an abuser, building off the #metoo movement in sincere ways. This is all made possible due to Moss, who gives a completely believable and downright harrowing performance. She is made, throughout the movie, to question her sanity. Whannel knows we are on her side from the get-go and constructs a dread-filled second act.
Whannell got his start with the Saw franchise but has grown considerably here as a creator of horror. The Invisible Man has far less blood and guts and far more emotional heft than anything he has previously been involved with. He deftly combines an eerie score, unsettling framing, and tight editing here to elicit visceral reactions from the audience. The screening I was at had the audience gasping more than once. The camera here somehow makes corners and edges of the frame burst with menace. Even the title sequence ties into the film's climax and shows just how in control Whannell is here. The film may never be scary but you won't relax at all while watching it. The suspense is sustained from the opening scene to the cathartic finale.
As skillful as the filmmaking is here, the film is greatly elevated by Moss. She is believable through every moment during her loss of sanity and grip on her life. She even sells the sillier moments because we believe that she is unstable and emotionally wrecked and therefore would not be thinking clearly. Moss is put through the wringer and gives it her all. It is an emotional performance that takes the B-movie elements to another place.