Horror genre in Hollywood can be classified into 3 types: Supernatural movies like Insidious, The Conjuring, and Annabelle that has the presence of a supernatural entity which differs as per individual faith and belief systems. Secondly, psychological horror films, including Get Out, and serial killer films like the Saw series that leave the audience horrified without the presence of any supernatural entity. The third type is a new and evolving one which mostly addresses issues in our society using this genre. The Invisible Man would fit right into the latest group.
Starring the quintessential Elisabeth Moss in the lead role, The Invisible Man is the story of domestic abuse and violence masquerading as a horror movie. However, the movie does a good job at convincing the audience till the end that it’s a horror movie with classic elements like a creepy background score; sudden, loud noises that break long silences, and a female lead who can’t catch a break because the people around her don’t believe her or call her crazy. Also, preconceived notions of mandatory appearance of supernatural entities in horror movies by the audience are a reason for that.
The opening scene of the movie shows Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) running away from a huge mansion cum science laboratory with surveillance around the whole house. Soon, it’s revealed that she is running away from her abusive husband Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and seeks refuge in her childhood friend James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney Lanier (Storm Reid). Trapped in an unhappy, violent marriage, Cecilia decides to leave her husband eventually because he planned to bring a baby into their marriage, permanently locking her in that rut. She decided to use her reproductive rights (3rd wave feminism whaddup) to obtain birth control and has been preventing pregnancy deliberately. The plot thickens when Adrian Griffin “dies” by suicide leaving $5 million to Cecilia provided she doesn’t commit any crime.
Adrian Griffin is an optics engineer and businessman, the best in his field. He is wealthy and the plot tells us he could’ve had any woman in the world to himself; basically, your regular entitled upper class, white man. He has designed a suit that helps people get invisible. Using this tech, he ‘haunts’ and tortures Cecilia. The ways he used to do that resonate directly with what victims of domestic abuse and violence go through. He makes the victim feel she is unreasonable, he isolates the victim from the only people she can rely on for emotional strength and support, and he destroys the victim’s chance at having financial security.
It was finally revealed that Adrian Griffin, along with his brother and attorney, Tom Griffin (Michael Dorman) faked his death as well as kidnapping to make Cecilia look like the ‘crazy’ woman in front of the world. The last few minutes of the movie is a master class in acting by Elizabeth Moss and an attempt by Cecilia to make her abusive husband admit to everything he’s done to her including killing her sister Emily Kass (Harriet Dyer) and a bunch of security guards in a mental asylum. She realizes that Adrian is continuing to manipulate her with the same pattern and vocabulary he previously used. She kills him using the same suit he made to get invisible and walks out of the mansion with a big smile on her face and relief in her soul. Brownie points to Elisabeth Moss for channeling her inner Offred in that scene (The Handmaid’s Tale fans, put yo’ hands up!)
The movie could have been a bit shorter with some scenes from the first half cut down. The jump scare element in the movie does a good job at keeping the audience at the edge of their seat. Cecilia’s efforts in proving her husband’s crimes to the world are played smartly without showing her as merely a vulnerable woman in a bad marriage which the patriarchal society perceives her to be. The tagline of the movie says “What you can’t see can hurt you” which perfectly defines a victim’s relationship with her closed ones. The Invisible Man can’t be seen by Emily, James, and Sydney and he hurts the three of them badly.