The Invisible Man Review The Buff and The Blazer
Universal’s The Invisible Man is a return to the great monster classics of the 20th century. The film is extremely well crafted and director Leigh Whannell has managed to keep things relevant for a modern audience. Among many of its strengths, cinematography, sound design and score help sell the fear and terror of an invisible character. Those techniques, in addition to masterful performances, help bring The Invisible Man back to its terrifying roots.
The Invisible Man story faces several challenges in terms of scare factor. The major one being that it involves a boogeyman type figure that the audience can’t see. Leigh Wannell embraces the empty parts of the frame and infuses fear into those moments. Let’s consider the interior scenes. One of the first encounters Cecelia (Elisabeth Moss) has with the Invisible man is in Jame’s (Aldis Hodge) house. The pacing of the scene is not startling. The Invisible Man’s presence comes across as more of an intuition or feeling for Cecilia. However, there is something about that first encounter that is chilling.
It all has to do with the way the camera is moving. The scene involves Cecilia on the couch as she’s working on her laptop. Instead of the shot starting there, the camera begins in an empty hallway and slowly trucks out. In a single shot, the camera pans and slowly transitions from the empty hallway to Cecilia on the couch. The slow and steady movement of the camera creates the feeling of a first-person vantage point of someone else in the room, presumably the Invisible Man. It also creates a very uncomfortable tension. The slow visual movement from the camera builds until we finally get an on-screen confirmation of the Invisible Man’s presence.
In addition to visual technique, the sound design of The Invisible Man also adds to the atmosphere of terror. The scenes involving Cecilia and the Invisible Man, feature specifically placed sound elements that heighten a sudden jump or a quick reveal. These stabs of sound, when paired with the startling imagery of the camera, add to the fear and anticipation. Another audio element of the film that adds atmosphere is Benjamin Wallfisch’s score. Not only are there pieces that will haunt your ears, but a large majority of his score creates a slow, eerie tension that builds up to the climax of the film. It complements both the cinematography and overall pace of the story.
The final and most important element of the film’s frightening success is the performance of its actors, particularly Elisabeth Moss. She appears solo in many scenes and the fear she exhibits on her face is incredibly effective. Her visual cues direct the audience to the invisible presence on the screen. As the film progresses, you get the sense that she is mentally scarred. The most interesting aspect of her performance is the blurring of the lines between paranoia and psychosis. It becomes more difficult to determine if she’s extremely paranoid or insane. Her character even seems to be struggling with those distinctions. Elisabeth Moss sells the stakes of her character’s situation, while also adding to the fear element.
Ultimately what we are left with is an iconic story that is brought back into spooky relevance. Cinematography, sound design, score and performance launch The Invisible Man into a new era of Universal horror pictures.
The Invisible Man is in theaters now!
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