The Invisible Woman

The first thing you have to know about the film is that the star of this latest version of The Invisible Man is a woman, Elizabeth Moss. I might also mention this from her Wikipedia entry.

Moss identifies as a… feminist. After a fan questioned whether her role in the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale etc etc etc.”

Starred in The Handmaid’s Tale and is personally a committed feminist. OK, could happen to anyone. And this, in a nut shell, is the way the story opens.

The Invisible Man is a 2020 science fiction horror film written and directed by Leigh Whannell. A contemporary adaptation of the novel of the same name by H. G. Wells and a reboot of The Invisible Man film series, it follows a woman who believes she is being stalked by her abusive partner, despite him apparently having died.

Now for the spoilers so back off unless you’ve seen the film or don’t care.

Let me first go through the plot outlined at the link with my own additions:

Trapped [in what way exactly?] in a violent, controlling relationship [asserted but at no stage demonstrated] with wealthy scientist Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) escapes in the dead of night and disappears into hiding, aided by her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer), their childhood friend James, a police detective, (Aldis Hodge) and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). Adrian later commits suicide and leaves her a generous portion of his vast fortune, but a series of bizarre events leads Cecilia to suspect his death was a hoax. As these eerie coincidences turn lethal, threatening the lives of those she loves, Cecilia’s sanity begins to unravel as she desperately tries to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see [are we to assume that each of the visits by an invisible presence are merely a manifestation of her madness or are they genuine events? Either Adrian has an invisibility machine, in which case she can use it herself later on, or he doesn’t. Which is it?]. She visits Adrian’s home to investigate and discovers a suit that uses cameras to render the wearer invisible [which somehow is able to be assembled elsewhere, such as in the parking lot of a hospital]. She takes it and hides it in the house before escaping as she continues to be followed by who she believes to be Adrian. When Cecilia attempts to tell her sister about the suit, Adrian cuts Emily’s throat in a packed restaurant [who is completely invisible to everyone else in that packed restaurant], making it look like Cecilia committed the crime.

Remanded to a treatment center while she awaits trial, Cecilia is informed by the medical staff that she is pregnant. Adrian’s brother Tom (Michael Dorman) visits her and offers to help her if she agrees to return to Adrian and raise their child together [an obvious sign of a brutal hateful nature], acknowledging that he helped his brother stage his suicide. Cecilia refuses his offer but manages to steal a pen from his briefcase, which she uses later to stab Adrian while he is lurking in her room. This causes his suit to malfunction and flicker in and out of visibility, drawing the attention of security. Adrian is able to violently incapacitate the security staff as he flees the building, but Cecilia follows him and attempts to kill him with a security guard’s gun [The invisibility suit nevertheless continues to work well enough most of the time]. Adrian subdues her and admits that he won’t harm her while she is pregnant, but makes clear he plans to kill Sydney instead.

Cecilia races to James’ house and ends up shooting and killing an invisible intruder [it really works], although she unmasks him and finds Tom in the suit. When police find Adrian alive at his house, claiming that he was his brother’s captive all along, Cecilia realizes that Adrian sent Tom to James’ house in his place, knowing what would happen. In an attempt to get Adrian to admit to his role, she meets him for dinner at his home to discuss her pregnancy, but Adrian denies any involvement [presumably lying if the plot is to work, but what evidence is there?]  Knowing she’ll never be safe as long as he is alive, Cecilia equips herself with a spare invisible suit and cuts Adrian’s throat in full view of a security camera, making it seem as if he committed suicide [in which case she must, while invisible, put a knife into his hand and then have him draw the blade across his throat].

James, who was nearby overviewing the scene with a radio, asks Cecilia what happened. She assures him that Adrian indeed committed suicide. Despite spotting the invisible suit in her handbag, he accepts her story [not even a bit sceptical?].

Let me add a little to fill in some of the gaps.

First, the abusive relationship has to be taken on trust. The film opens with Ms Moss in the most astonishing palatial home, overlooking the ocean, as they lie in bed with her husband reaching across his sleeping wife in a night-time embrace. She, however, removes his hand, slips out of the bed, gets past all of the security devices that exist throughout the house on the way to the exit, and once free is almost overtaken by her husband who breaks the glass of the car in his rage as she is driving off. Since she was completely able to walk out of the house in the middle of the night, there was no need for this melodramatic 3:00 am escape. Why not? Could be.

Next we see her living in terror of her husband at the home of a policeman friend and his daughter (who by the way sleeps with Moss to help relieve her anxiety). Moss is totally in fear that her husband will come back and in some way harm her. She is then informed that her husband had died by his own hand, and not only that, had left her something absurd like $10,000,000. Why not? Could be.

But as the plot moves along we find Ms Moss being terrorised by some invisible person. We see these events on the screen. There really is an invisible person, who has a reality for her but whose existence is known to others only because she keeps telling everyone that she is being stalked by her dead husband, who so far as everyone else is concerned is dead. Indeed we even see photos of the scene of the husband’s quite gory death although apparently staged but so well that even the coroner is taken in. She nevertheless insists that her dead husband is stalking her, and there are numerous scenes where Ms Moss is just there when this invisible presence forces her to do evil things, such as cut her own sister’s throat while they are sitting together in a restaurant, or perhaps it was The Invisible Male who had done it while she just sat there. Either way, ridiculous.

Thus, as you are watching the film, you can take Ms Moss’s side and believe that her husband is such an incredible genius, has invented some means to make himself invisible that absolutely no one has ever heard of before and is using this device to stalk his wife through all kinds of menacing moments which occur before us right through the film. Or we can believe her husband really is dead, and that she is completely nuts and the moving is allowing us to experience her hallucinations. To the audience, the plot depends on the existence of an invisibility machine. Why not? Could be. Actually, couldn’t be, but let us go on.

There is then one plot device after another, which at one stage takes her back to her matrimonial home. There she discovers, inside this mansion, the invisibility device after yet again getting into a fight with her invisible husband. How she knows it is what it is who can explain, but she does. Personally, why he doesn’t just despatch her I could not work out. For my taste, she wasn’t worth the effort to keep the marriage together, but that’s just me. Nor once she had left was there much reason either to have her back or to seek such an elaborate revenge. Still, it was handy for him to have invented this invisibility machine but never have mentioned it to his wife, nor anyone else.

Then there is a fight in the madhouse hospital Ms. Moss has been taken to after murdering her sister in which Mr Invisible Man shoots a number of people to death, but then inexplicably to me, does not shoot others to death that he might have, and more stupidly still, allows others to discover that there really is someone with a device that really can make themselves invisible.

Finale, her husband turns out to be alive after all but had been locked away in some storage shack. It tuns out that the man who has been invisible is her husband’s brother, the lawyer. We find this out because when Mr Invisible is shot and killed, that is who has died. Ms Moss then has a dinner with her husband for whom there is no now no evidence whatsoever that he has done anything wrong at any stage. While sitting down to dinner, she is wired for sound with her policeman friend listening in. Throughout the dinner her husband continually insists that he loves her. He never says otherwise, nor is there any reason for the audience to think otherwise. In the midst of dinner she excuses herself to go the the ladies, and while she is out of the room, for reasons unknown, the husband grabs a knife and slashes his own throat and dies. The policeman friend is listening in to all this while the events are being videoed on the security camera – a clear suicide so far as the camera can see. Hearing all of the commotion through the wire, the policeman rushes into the house, meeting as she is on her way out, a very self-satisfied, smiling and much contented Ms Moss who walks past him, and mirabile dictu, she is carrying an invisibility device in her bag. The policeman friend is puzzled, but we in the audience can see that she has been at the centre of a very successful murder plot to kill her husband. By film end, there is not a shred of evidence that her husband was in any way a villain who has ever been out to kill her. She, of course, is a few million dollars richer and is free of her husband and his terrible control over her life.

All the women I have spoken to about the story are completely satisfied with the story, how it evolves and how it ends. On no evidence whatsoever shown in the film, she was escaping from an abusive “controlling” relationship, the film even using the word. If there is evidence of bad intentions towards his wife, they occur only after she has left and he starts his ultra-ultra-high-tech revenge which in any case seems to have been undertaken by the brother. Having now discovered the technology, she has commandeered the device which she uses on her husband who continually insists that he loves her, and will say nothing else while they are having dinner together, although they, so far as he is aware, are absolutely alone and no one can hear what is being said.

For myself, this was a film I was not able to see its moral centre until it turned out that Ms. Moss was a vengeful murderess but only I seem to think this is what takes place. But that would be completely against the spirit of our times, I thought, to make a woman a villain. But all the women I have since spoken to loved the film, since they found the murder of her husband by his wife completely satisfying and justified. He got what he deserved. As explained to me, don’t I think there are such things as oppressive husbands? Of course there are, but why do they think this one in the film is one such husband? That is a complete unknown to me.

If you ask me we live in a very emotionally damaged society, with this one of the most depraved films I have ever seen. This is modern feminist literature, as with The Handmaiden’s Tale, where women are portrayed as living in a world of control and repression when in fact, as in the film, they live the freest most luxurious lives, and as in this case, a life entirely financed by her husband, since once she is on her own, she just sits around the house, and in the only activity we actually see her involved with, in the kitchen, cooking. She apparently does nothing on her own to finance her life style.

A very political film, absolutely crazy to its very core. No man can take it seriously, and given how sparse the audience was, not all that many women can either. Or perhaps they do. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 90% from Critics and 89% from the audience. IMDb gave it a more sane 7.7. Will just finish with the last para of this review by someone named Jennifer Heaton.

The Invisible Man is a perfect blend of high-concept and grounded horror, tapping into the zeitgeist and delivering a haunting parable about psychological abuse. Whilst undeniably a horror film at its core, it also transcends the genre to the point where non-horror fans will find something to enjoy. Whilst it certainly doesn’t linger on Universal’s past mistakes, its success proves that you don’t need gigantic budgets, a shared universe or celebrity stunt casting to reinvent the Universal Monsters brand. Though perhaps not as ingenious or revolutionary a take as, say, Jordan Peele’s recent output, it is still a brilliant testament to how the best horror takes our real-life anxieties and warps them into debilitating nightmares. Heed the trigger warnings beforehand, but absolutely go see it if you can!

The Universal Monsters brand! We live in such idiotic times. Are married women everywhere really plotting to get out?