Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The Invisible Man [2020]

“You Won’t See Me”
(title from The Beatles song of that name on their 1965 Rubber Soul album)
Review by Ken Burke
I invite you to join me on a regular basis to see how my responses to current cinematic offerings compare to the critical establishment, which I’ll refer to as either the CCAL (Collective Critics at Large) if they agree with me or the OCCU (Often Cranky Critics Universe) if they choose to disagree.

       The Invisible Man [2020] (Leigh Whannell)   rated R

“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): (Lately I've emphasized esoteric-content/hard-to-find-films, so here’s a review of last weekend's box-office-champ.*Loosely based on both the H.G. Wells novel (1897) and the previous Universal movie (1933) of the same title, this version of The Invisible Man still features an impossible-to-see-murderer but now the emphasis is on his tormented wife who has the audacity to leave her miserable marriage.  Briefly, Cecilia (mostly called Cee) enjoys relief when news comes her fiercely-controlling-husband’s committed suicide, but that changes when mysterious occurrences convince her he’s not dead but somehow invisible so he can continue to physically/emotionally torture her, which proves effective to the point of turning away those close to her as if she’s gone crazy, then framing her for the murder of her sister.  How she overcomes the lunacy surrounding (but not inhabiting) her life takes us into spoiler territory so I’ll refrain from further details if you want to see it for yourself (as a horror movie it’s scary at times but more of a slow-tension-buildup than lots of graphic bloodletting, so I’d say it’s quite tolerable except for the truly squeamish) or, if you’ve started saving up to pay your income taxes, you can get a taste of it from the trailer below plus this anatomy of a scene (2:14; click on the little speaker icon for audio if necessary; there's also a long band of other "anatomies" at the bottom of this link's screen) where screenwriter-director Whannell explores Cee sensing Adrian’s presence prior to an attack (he notes the difficulty of shooting/editing when a character’s erased from the screen in the final version) then decide if you’re ready to read all my revelations below.  If not, until you buy a ticket, I’ll give you a serious Musical Metaphor about the primary theme here (more tongue-in-cheek-ones are in the actual review), "Cell Block Tango" from Best Picture-Oscar-winner-Chicago (Rob Marshall, 2002) where 6 incarcerated women explain why they'd killed their significant others.

*Concerning 1 of those hard-to-finds, Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma, 2019) was just up for 10 trophies at France’s César Awards, but despite my encouragement (review in our February 27, 2019 posting) and San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle it won only Best Cinematography, so, as with Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019; review in our October 31, 2019 posting) at the recent Oscars (big winner; my favorite, The IrishmanMartin Scorsese, 2019; review in our November 21, 2019 postingwent 0 for 10), don’t bet too much on anything I highly tout for awards ceremonies.  Also, as I note in the last item at the end of this posting (just before our regular audience-stats-photo) our readership’s dropped drastically in the last couple of weeks, so maybe my review choices aren’t engaging our audience much; here’s hoping a focus on a popular horror film may revive our market presence a bit.  If not, as those fabulous French say, "C'est la vie" ("That's life.").

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who’d like to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify such give-away sentences/sentence-clusters thusly: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.

(You're going to see lots of photos of Elisabeth Moss accompanying this posting
because that's about all I could find; still, she is the best thing about the movie.)
What Happens: At 3:42 AM Cecilia “Cee” Kass (Elisabeth Moss) slips out of bed away from husband Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen)—a rich, brilliantly-scientific, obsessive-control-freak who’s mentally abused Cee to the point of a carefully-planned-escape from her luxurious home in Stinson Beach, CA (just north of San Francisco)—first stirring some drowsiness-inducing-Diazepam into his bedside-water-glass (I guess she put in more earlier to initially knock him out), then turning the hall security camera to focus on him so she can monitor on her cellphone to see he’s still asleep (she turns off the many other cameras in the house), followed by slipping a duffel bag out of a secret compartment in the closet.  She’s almost successfully away when her dog comes into the garage, bumps up against a car setting off an alarm which turns on the house lights, wakes up Adrian who’s soon in pursuit (with bombastic music rattling our ears) as Cee climbs over the security wall, runs through nearby woods, is picked up by her sister, Emily (Harriet Dyer), in a pre-arranged-encounter where they barely escape Adrian who smashes the car window attempting to grab his wife (who dropped the Diazepam bottle onto the road).  Cee takes refuge with Emily’s friend, James Lanier (Aldis Hodge), a local cop who lives in suburbia with his teenage daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid), hoping Adrian won’t find her.  For awhile she relaxes a little until Emily shows up (Cee asked her not to visit so Adrian wouldn’t follow to this safe-house); after Cee’s initial nerve-wracked-explosion Emily explains her visit: Adrian’s dead from suicide.  Oddly, though, a letter arrives for Cee at James' house calling her to meet with Adrian’s lawyer-brother, Tom (Michael Dorman), who angrily reveals the contents of Adrian’s will: Cee will receive $5 million paid in installments as long as she faces no criminal charges.  With this new income-infusion, she opens an account for Sydney promising to add $10,000 monthly to pay the girl’s college expenses.  Soon after, however, we get mysterious omens from camera point-of-view/tracking shots into empty rooms, etc. culminating with a night where the blanket’s pulled off of sleeping Sydney and Cee but when Cee tries to pull it back it won’t move—she sees footprints where it’s being held down.  Other odd things happen (a knife floats away from its holder, fire’s turned up on the kitchen stove causing a momentary panic) culminating with Cee at a job interview finding her portfolio case empty, passes out, is rushed to a hospital where she’s found to have high levels of Diazepam with her prescription bottle of the stuff soon appearing in James’ bathroom.  Even as others begin to assume Cee’s having a mental breakdown she’s convinced Adrian’s still alive, somehow invisible, mentally torturing her as he said he would if she ever tried to leave him.  Tom discounts her assumptions (even as he admits Adrian’s manipulated him all their lives), Cee visits Emily who angrily turns her away because of a hateful email sent that day which Cee finds later in her computer’s Sent file, next she loses support from James and Sydney when it seems as if Cee's suddenly, violently hit the girl.

 After James and his daughter leave their house in disgust at Cee, she ventures up to the attic where she finds Adrian’s cellphone, the kitchen knife, and her portfolio materials, senses someone’s coming up the ladder, slings some paint—which reveals a human shape— then tries to escape the house but has to struggle with an unseen assailant whom she finally stuns with a couple of smashed plates; she runs outside, hails a rideshare, goes back to her Stinson Beach house, finds a strange bodysuit of some kind on a mannequin (it wasn’t visible until she pushed a button on some sort of control apparatus), hides it in that secret closet spot, gets invisibly-attacked again, escapes again, has her rideshare guy take her into SF, calls Emily to meet her at a restaurant to reconcile.  When they’ve both arrived Cee starts to tell Emily how she now has proof Adrian’s still alive causing all this trauma when suddenly a knife hovers up off their table, slits Emily’s throat, then lands in Cee’s hand so the shocked woman’s soon arrested, taken off to a mental-care-facility where she’ll await trial for murder.  ⇒While being examined there she finds she’s pregnant (she’d been taking birth-control-pills, but apparently Adrian knew [as he seems to about everything] so he switched them out for a placebo); Tom visits, admits he’s been in league with Adrian for this entire venture, offers Cee complete relief from her legal troubles if she’ll have the baby, go back with Adrian.  She refuses but steals a fountain pen from his briefcase; that night she goes into her shower, seemingly to slash her wrist with the pen, whereupon Adrian grabs her; she retaliates by stabbing him which short-circuits the invisibility-suit so he’s periodically-partly-visible, tries to escape but he keeps grabbing her even while killing guards rushing to the scene (shooting some with their own guns).  With her own purloined pistol Cee tries to track Adrian through a rain-swept-parking lot, only for him to grab her, tell her he’s going to kill Sydney.  She manages to commandeer a car, races to James’ house, calls him to rush home as well; he gets there first, tries unsuccessfully to fight off the invisible assailant until Cee rushes in with a fire extinguisher allowing her to spray the killer with foam, make him visible, so she can shoot him dead, but when she pulls off the mask it’s Tom.  Police search the Stinson Beach house, find Adrian tied up in the basement where his story is Tom did everything Adrian’s been accused of.  Cee doesn’t buy any of it but goes to meet with her (ex?) husband for dinner at their home (with its great view of the ocean), saying she’ll cooperate with him if he’ll just admit his crimes (she’s wearing a wire; James listens from outside the house).  Adrian continues to protest his innocence, Cee gets upset, goes to the bathroom to compose herself; suddenly, we see directly (and on the security camera recording the dining-room-table) a knife rise up to slit his throat (looking like suicide) so she must have put on the spare invisibility suit, activated it, took her revenge.  When she leaves with the suit in a duffle bag, James is initially dubious but accepts the suicide concept, leaving Cee free of all her previous horrors ready to face life again.⇐

So What? A few years ago Universal Studios decided to revive their classic 1930s-'40s monsters, beginning with The Mummy (Alex Kurtzman, 2017); however, despite a cast including Tom Cruise, Courtney B. Vance, and Russell Crowe (who, oddly enough, adds Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde to that story) this movie didn’t successfully kick off the proposed Dark Universe.  Given the OCCU response (Rotten Tomatoes critics wrote only 16% positive reviews, those at Metacritic were surprisingly higher but only with a 34% average score; Cruise won the Golden Raspberry Award as 2017’s Worst Actor) I made no attempt to see it although many others did, generating a global gross of $410 million; yet, given the $350 million production/distribution costs, that wasn’t enough to convince Universal to continue their original plan where all their monsters would coexist as with Marvel and DC superheroes.  Instead, stand-alone-movies would resurrect those earlier tales with this take on The Invisible Man next for the big screen with a considerably better response this time, shifting critics into CCAL mode as those at RT gave 91% positive responses, the MC average score's in their more-usual-realm of 71% (putting me in line with both because all you need for a RT “fresh” rating is some level of ‘thumbs up” responses [even if there are a good many negative comments in the reviews, as I’ve witnessed], so I join them in the generally-positive-realm while my 3½ stars of 5 is an acceptable-but-not-wildly-enthusiastic-70%, aligned with MC’s more-reserved-evaluation [more details on RT/MC numbers in Related Links farther below]).  I guess you could question whether this is a monster movie to begin with, given the killer’s fully human (although certainly a social “monster” who controls everything around him ⇒including apparently convincing Tom to put on the invisibility suit, then attack Sydney although Adrian somehow assumed this would lead to his brother’s demise, allowing Adrian to clear himself of the many crimes attributed to “the invisible man,” even somehow tying himself up in his own basement [not necessarily the most-easily-embraced of plot-points here, but once you’re willing to accept the whole—essentially-unexplained—concept of the invisibility suit it all becomes necessary to keep the tension building, the narrative becoming more unpredictable]),⇐ but just like fully-human Batman and Hawkeye join in with actual superpower-enhanced-beings of their respective DC and Marvel realms so does the Invisible Man (especially Dr. Jack Griffin [Claude Rains] in the original movie of this title [James Whale, 1933] who goes on a killing spree [even this old movie’s more violent than the foundational novel, although Griffin's the protagonist’s name all around] due to his invisibility drug bringing about a state of madness) share a disturbing arena of Universal plots involving ongoing murders by Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, the Mummy, the Wolfman (many of whom do share the screen in the original version of a Dark Universe in some of those later sequels to Frankenstein [Whale, 1931]).

 There’s no doubt this is a horror film, though, given the terrifying manipulations Adrian imposes on Cee, with brief implications (although the title should dissuade us) it’s actually Adrian’s evil ghost come back to haunt his wife (put into plausible-perspective by some of the previews prior to this movie’s start, featuring supernatural monsters unleashed by dating services [?] and mirrors), but she’s convinced he’s not dead, merely using some ultra-sophisticated-technology to hide while he makes her life miserable.  So, in that sense it becomes more a psychological-horror-story (taking to extremes the hidden murderer prototype [which also implied supernatural aspects until clarified], Psycho [Alfred Hitchcock, 1960]).  Normally, I’m not all that attracted to contemporary-slasher-versions of this genre (although they prove to be financially-lucrative as legions of others are quite willing to endure grotesque cinematic tropes during winter months until roller-coaster-parks open up again), but, despite this narrative being little more than the essence of unnerving thriller situations from a lengthy, ghastly heritage in all forms of fiction—with the added twist of dramatic, violent surprises occurring in fully-lit-environments rather than just darkened rooms, caves, etc. because the killer’s not visible to us any more so than to the on-screen-victims—this movie succeeds quite well for me (and my wife, Nina, who generally doesn’t care for such narrative attacks on her psyche) within its inherent restrictions due to: (1) how events continue to move past expected resolutions (Cee’s discovery of Adrian’s invisibility suit leading to the recruitment of aid; the seeming conquest of the killer; Cee’s lack of success—if she ever intended to achieve it—getting Adrian to confess his crimes) keeping us on edge, often caught unaware, until we reach closure; (2) the marvelous acting ability of Moss whose range of emotions, reactions, determined counteractions to all she’s confronted with provide a tour-de-force of thespian-skill, building on everything I’d already come to respect about her small/big-screen-presences from AMC TV’s Mad Men (2007-2015) to The Kitchen (Andrea Berloff, 2019; review in our August 14, 2019 posting)—I know she’s gotten major awards for Hulu TV’s The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-‘20), but having seen the film version years ago (Volker Schlöndorff, 1990) I was just too disgusted by the misogynistic premise of this dystopian story to want to see it again (she’s also been nominated a lot for Mad Men [from 2009-‘15] and BBC TV’s Top of the Lake [2013]).  I’d love to think her extensive command of The Invisible Man might lead to Oscar recognition in 2021, but the early-in-the-year-release of a genre story (a horror movie at that) likely precludes such an honor; still, the success of this unlikely hit should at least continue opening doors for Moss’ casting in more-embraced-work which may ultimately result in more top awards for her in the future.  While there’s some slashing in The Invisible Man it’s not a horror-potboiler, so if you’re not turned away by the trailer or that analysis-of-a-scene link in the “Executive Summary” far above I highly encourage attendance sometime soon.

Bottom Line Final Comments: This movie was made for the almost-unheard-of-sum (with a major star) of $7 million so it’s already a success taking in $28.2 million in its debut weekend (another $20.1 million internationally), playing in 3,610 domestic (U.S.-Canada) theaters (although if potential audiences see it described by sources like Box Office Mojo as a horror/mystery/sci-fi/thriller it may keep drawing big crowds just to satisfy curiosity as to how it could touch so many bases).  Of course, 1 great weekend does not make a successful run, but given the guilty verdicts in the recent Harvey Weinstein trial there may be even more interest in this take on The Invisible Man if others besides Owen Gleiberman in Variety start picking up on this plot as having a (non-didactic) connection to the #MeToo movement, relating to issues of women not being believed about the horrors happening to them, now or in the past.  Even Cee’s sister and close friend James are turned against her for perceived actions (as if she’s instigated the trauma befallen her) and implications she’s delusional if not crazy (she’s taken to a “psycho ward,” not a jail—although that latter location wouldn’t have allowed the story to progress as it did, something we should always keep in mind when questioning the logic of how fictional events are set up/play out), so while neither Gleiberman nor I assume this movie has editorial-opinion-purposes, the plot's an added inducement to see it for understanding how hot-button-sociopolitical-issues may be more open to consideration in a fictional format than a news account.  Yet, given these serious considerations are embedded in a pop culture format not known for asking its audiences to contemplate much after the lights come up (except whether it was worth the cost) I haven’t gone very deep either for Musical Metaphors to wrap all of this up—not using a contemplative tune to bring it all together—instead relying on a couple of wry choices from Rubber Soul: this posting’s title, “You Won’t See Me,” which could be interpreted from Adrian’s warped perspective toward Cee (with her name as a possible pun within the context of the movie’s content), blaming her for their marital discord as he taunts her with “We have lost the time that was so hard to find And I will lose my mind If you won’t see me […] Time after time you refuse to even listen […] And I just can’t go on If you won’t see me,” then her follow-up when revenge comes so sweetly in “I’m Looking Through You” (at watch?v=gH6i9JAdJrQ) because “You don’t look different, but you have changed I’m looking through you, you’re not the same […] Why, tell me why, did you not treat me right? Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight […] The only difference is you’re down there I’m looking through you and you’re nowhere.”  I realize I’m stretching my Metaphors a bit here but I enjoy hearing these songs again just as I enjoyed seeing The Invisible Man; if Universal can keep resuscitating their old-school-monsters with such success I’ll look forward to watching whatever they come up with next.

 In the Related Links section just below you’ll find my final inclusion for this year in these posts of Metacritic’s summary of various awards to 2019 films, critics’ 2019 Top 10 lists, the 2019 box-office-champs, and the Golden Globe and Oscar nominees/winners for those 2019 releases.  Take note you can find these links in any of our Two Guys postings for Jan.-Feb. 2020 (and this once in March) if you want to quickly revisit any of that info for last year even as we'll plow ahead into 2020.
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.*  Overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage If you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

*A Google software glitch causes every Two Guys posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to this Summary page; from then forward, though, this link is accurate.

AND … at least until the Oscars for 2019’s releases have been awarded on Sunday, February 9, 2020 we’re also going to include reminders in each posting of very informative links where you can get updated tallies of which 2019 films have been nominated for and/or received various awards 
and which ones made various individual critic’s Top 10 lists.  You may find the diversity among the various awards competitions and the various critics hard to reconcile at times—not to mention the often-significant-gap between critics’ choices and competitive-award-winners (which pales when compared to the even-more-noticeable-gap between specific award winners and big box-office-grosses you might want to monitor here)—but as that less-than-enthusiastic-patron-of-the-arts, Plato, noted in The Symposium (385-380 BC)—roughly translated, depending on how accurate you wish the actual quote to be—“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,” so your choices for success are as valid as any of these others, especially if you offer some rationale for your decisions (unlike many of the awards voters who simply fill out ballots, sometimes for films they’ve never seen).

To save you a little time scrolling through the “various awards” list above, here are the current Golden Globe nominees and winners for films and TV from 2019 along with the Oscar nominees and winners for 2019 films.

Here’s more information about The Invisible Man:

on the 3 little bars in the upper left of the screen to reveal the various contents) (8:11 behind-the-scenes footage of the making of this movie; just a lot of snippets [some without sound] but interesting to see what all goes into even the simplest of shots)

Please note that to Post a Comment below about our reviews you need to have either a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.  You can also leave comments at our Facebook page, although you may have to somehow connect with us at that site in order to do it (most FB procedures are still a bit of a mystery to us old farts).

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website,, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)

If we did talk, though, you’d easily see how my early-70s-age informs my references, Musical Metaphors, etc. in these reviews because I’m clearly a guy of the later 20th century, not so much the contemporary world.  I’ve come to accept my ongoing situation, though, realizing we all (if fate allows) keep getting older, we just have to embrace it, as Joni Mitchell did so well in "The Circle Game," offering sage advice even when she was quite young herself.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 4,305 (as always, we thank all of you for your support with our hopes you’ll continue to be regular readers although this massive drop-off in audience since the beginning of 2020 [taking us back to the meager levels when we first launched this blog in late 2011] matches the recent U.S. stock market downsurge 
due to coronavirus concerns, but the stock market’s rebounding so all I can do is hope Two Guys readership will also because if not we may become "The Invisible Blog Site"); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from to Google within the previous week:


  1. Great review, Ken!

    Unknown region? How can it be unknown in this day and age?

    Nina, your loving wife.

  2. That's what I wondered too. So, if Google doesn't know I doubt that God does either, I just hope the folks there--wherever they are--continue reading the Two Guys reviews because for a long time they were our best customers. Thanks for the reply, Sweetie. Ken