First off, there will be spoilers in this review. I am not hesitating with the spoilers because nothing surprising happens in this movie. It starts out very promising: Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) is escaping the home of her abusive lover. She finds sanctuary in the home of her childhood friend, James, a cop played by Aldis Hodge and his daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid.) Cee gets news that her ex-husband has died of an apparent suicide and has left her a large sum of money– That’s when things get dangerous for her.
In this movie, the Invisible Man is Cecilia’s ex, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen,) who has faked his death. He was apparently a tech mogul who had developed an invisibility suit using state-of-the-art optic technology. He begins following her for your standard psychological thriller torture routine. She tries to tell James and her ‘deceased’ ex’s attorney brother, Tom (Michael Dorman) about being stalked, but of course no one believes her. Cecilia ends up being framed for her sister Emily’s murder and gets thrown in jail where The Invisible Man kills several cops to prevent her from escaping and proving her innocence. It turns out Lawyer Bro was in on it, and after his death, Cecilia ends up getting her revenge by killing her ex and making it look like a suicide.
There’s nothing special about this movie, story-wise. There’s nothing special about it stylistically, either. It doesn’t tell a new story, nor does it tell an old story in a new way. Elisabeth Moss turns in an adequate performance. She’s great in a supporting role and fine when given great material to work with, but in my view, she isn’t a compelling enough actor to elevate mediocre writing. In fact, there are no standout performances to speak of in this movie–and the actors are not to blame. The script has no more life in it than the paper it was printed on.
Celia’s sister, Emily, is the one who picks her up after escaping from her lover’s house. She also acts as Celia’s lawyer during the reading of the will, but we don’t even learn that Emily is Cecilia’s sister until the Invisible Man sends Emily a hurtful email supposedly written by Celia. Emily fully believes that Celia has written the email, and immediately shuts her out. In real life, this is an all-too-common occurrence. Friends and family members disbelieve abuse survivors and act in horrendous ways. Stil, in this movie, the plot point is not earned. We don’t see a shred of familial affection between these two women until the scene where they make amends in a crowded restaurant just before an invisible hand picks up a knife and slashes the Emily’s throat.
The portrayal of abuse and its fallout feels insulting and pandering, as if Leigh Whannell, the writer/director, read a pamphlet on domestic abuse and decided his research was done. Emily isn’t the only one to fail Cecilia this way. The policeman, James, doesn’t believe her either. In a scene between Cecilia and James’s daughter, Sydney, they are clearly not less than 6 feet away from each other when the Invisible Man slaps Sydney, who immediately blames Cecilia. Cecilia would’ve had to have supernatural speed in order to close the distance between them that quickly, and yet the issue is never addressed.
Then there’s Lawyer Bro Tom: He’s supposed to be a victim of his older sibling’s sociopathic abuse, as well, but we’re never shown any examples of this or any effects besides his aiding his invisible brother’s evil plot.
None of the movie’s relationships feel lived-in– There’s no Chemistry between the actors. There’s no chemistry between the director and the screen. In this horror Renaissance, there’s no room for the sort of mediocre paint-by-numbers kind of flick that audiences gobbled up in the late 90s and early 2000s when we have the option to watch something like Us or Hereditary– movies that boast style, substance, and amazing acting. This is especially true when the movie is trying to tackle a subject as heavy as physical and emotional abuse within a relationship and the struggle to find a semblance of normalcy after escaping. The Source material offers up a plethora of possibilities. The idea of framing it from an abuse survivors standpoint had so much potential, and the movie fails at every turn. It said nothing. it was not scary. Do not see this movie.