Leigh Whannell's The Invisible Man not only dusted off one of Universal's classic monsters, but updated one of horror's most overused plot devices.
Leigh Whannell's updated take on The Invisible Man story accomplished a modern revamp of one of Universal's classic monsters and managed to subvert one of horror's oldest plot devices in one fell swoop.
Though The Invisible Man has seen numerous adaptations over the years in both horror and comedy genres, Whannell's take shifts the focus from the titular character to the female perspective of his target: Cecilia Kass, his ex-girlfriend who has recently figured out a way to escape Adrian's abuse, manipulation, and gaslighting. Performed brilliantly by Moss in the role of Cecilia, Whannell's take on The Invisible Man story is one that hits home for many survivors of domestic and intimate partner abuse. The director and writer took to asking women to share their stories to add authenticity to his script, which is part of the reason why the film has managed to take the box office by storm, paving the way for a new rise of Universal's Dark Universe.
In the wake of COVID-19, The Invisible Man was released early for home audiences, though became a financial success during its theatrical run. Acclaimed by critics and flooded with positive reviews, this vision of making classic monsters more stripped down and relevant to themes present in a new decade heralds in other announcements. Karyn Kusama, director of Jennifer's Body and Destroyer, has recently been tapped to direct a Dracula movie for Universal. Similarly, James Wan has been attached to a Universal monster movie that many suspect to be Frankenstein. All of these classics are poised to revamp not only the characters themselves, but horror tropes that have been used and reused since the very beginning, just like Whannell did with the final girl in The Invisible Man.
In horror movies, the final girl is the character that ends up sucked into whatever terrible situation is being portrayed in the film and becomes the killer's primary target. In slasher movies, this is traditionally played as a metaphor for innocence with the final girls being virginal and often shy. Not only that, this status gives them the tools and strength to overcome their adversity and reclaim their power as a woman in the final fight. It has been done with characters like Sidney Prescott in Scream and Laurie Strode in Halloween, with these characters repeatedly finding themselves worn down by the constant threat of violence and fighting for their own lives.
In David Gordon Green's 2018 Halloween reboot, Laurie has become a paranoid shut-in who lost custody of her daughter and is estranged from her family because the thought of Michael Myers' return has become the central focus of her entire life. In other versions of the Halloween canon, she becomes his victim. Sidney Prescott has dealt with numerous different Ghostface killers, subverts tropes in that she has become overly prepared to deal with every obstacle placed in her path, and while it's a burden, Sidney has grown to accept it as her fate. Cecilia Kass is different; this situation doesn't just happen to her - she wasn't a random target. She grew to love and trust a man who ended up being a violent abuser, rapist, and murderer.
The Invisible Man is a story of a woman who starts at her strongest and gets perpetually stronger throughout the film. The opening scene shows her escape from Adrian's fortress of a home; she has meticulously planned her freedom. After she escapes, she gets herself healthy through the assistance of a friend, and when Adrian comes back for her - invisible, this time - she goes immediately on the defensive. She waits for him, outsmarts him, and while nobody rushes to her aid or even believes her, she understands her reality because this is the monster - and man - she knows very well. Eventually, when she gets her vengeance and the upper hand in The Invisible Man's ending, it's all the more satisfying.
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Jack Wilhelmi is the horror features editor at Screen Rant, and has been with the site since 2019. He is a lifelong fan of the horror genre, and loves any excuse to discuss genre-related topics, since none of his friends dare challenge him in horror trivia. He has been published on the independent horror blog Morbidly Beautiful, and has covered major genre film festivals such as Cinepocalypse in Chicago. He has also served as a judge for the Ax Wound Film Festival. In his free time, he is a devoted dog dad to a high-spirited rescue pup named Peter Quill and enjoys volunteering with various animal rescue organizations. Jack likes to travel and explore dark tourism-related and other various haunted locations. He enjoys studying psychology, the paranormal, and will watch literally any schlocky B-movie on the planet for a laugh. Follow him on Twitter @JackMacabre or his dog on Instagram @quillthethrill.
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