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The Mass Media

The irony of seeing The Invisible Man

If I told you that I saw an invisible man, you may think that I’m a bit nuts in most contexts. However, in 1933 and now 2020, we can understand that I, in fact, simply saw a film. This edition of “The Invisible Man” takes the science-fiction base and sets new roots firmly in the horror genre. That being said, I can say with utmost certainty that the filmmakers here knew exactly how to make a horror flick.

The film begins with a relevant contemporary story. Cecilia is escaping her abusive boyfriend, Adrian, complete with scaling the walls surrounding his house and a quick chase through the woods. She gets away and stays with her friends, James and Sydney. Cecilia is convinced that Adrian is after her still. That changes when news comes of his apparent suicide. Life is bliss until, as the title of the film implies, Adrian returns as invisible with the sole purpose of making Cecilia’s life horrible. If I go any farther, it’ll ruin the mystery of the flick.

Straight away, the film throws you into the horror of the plot by using an almost silent score, dense shadows, and sudden loud noises that rattle the senses of the viewer. These are not lazy, however, but used in ways contrary to the following scenes that are presented in a jovial tone and feeling. Once Cecilia gains any sort of idea that Adrian may have turned himself invisible, the camera angles begin to play into that notion. By that, I mean that the film begins to heavily utilize long takes rather than quick cuts. When there is a shot of Cecilia walking down a hallway and she arrives upon a corner, the viewer would expect the camera to cut to a new location. Instead, the camera pans to the next room while the characters move about in the frame, keeping the continuous shot rolling. This happens often and plays with the expectation of the viewer, waiting to see the monster around the corner. By not cutting for sometimes upwards of a minute and a half, the audience expects something, anything to happen but in this context, the only feeling conjured up is pure suspense. In these moments, I did have to tell my friend to stop covering her eyes while a horror fan like me was grinning ear to ear by watching something that can be hard to find: a horror flick done right.

About two thirds of the way through the film, the horror sort of gives way to the sci-fi-based plot more and more. I say sort of because the fear and suspense never truly go away yet the movie begins to focus more on tying up the narrative in a neat way. Whether it does or does not is left up to the individual viewer.  This also relates to the development of certain characters. Most of them are developed around Cecilia and aren’t given much time outside of that. Very rarely are there scenes with just them or when their actions don’t serve the purpose of the larger plot. Of course, there is little wrong with this, only that because of the lack of independent characters, the plot can open itself for waning interests if the relationship between Cecilia and Adrian are not in the main discussion.

This film takes the visual medium of film and subverts most expected viewing practices. In other words, the negative space in relation to what is shown in a given shot is just as important, if not more than what is. The open areas are used in such ways that I hesitate to think many other movies know how. In a story where the center of interest is an invisible man, what you don’t see can raise many consequences.

If it was ever in question that Elizabeth Moss could act, raise this film as a counter argument. I would argue that she is one of the best aspects of this entire movie. It’s almost like she took the plot and forced it around herself in the best way possible. Every minute of the film was enjoyable to watch for a spook show fanatic or otherwise. I give the ingenuity of it my highest regards and cannot recommend it enough if only for the craftsmanship. The problem is, it may keep you up at night, but turning on your night light isn’t going to help one bit.