Some people thought that Cecilia Kass had it pretty good. Her boyfriend was the scientist Adrian Griffin, for one thing. He’s brilliant, handsome and incredibly wealthy. And his wealth also offers Cecilia an amazing house and estate to live on, all the comforts money can buy, and the opportunity to persue her own career with no financial pressures.
However, as Cecilia slides into sweatpants and quietly, breathlessly, slips out the door in the dead of the night, she’s not thinking about any of that. She’s not concerned with all she’s leaving behind. She’s simply clutching to the fact that she has been trapped in the most controlling, crippling and violent relationship she can imagine. He controls what she eats, what she wears, what she says in public, and even tries to manipulate what she thinks! And she has to break free.
This man has crushed her and wrung any sense of joy in life completely out of her. And somehow, no one, absolutely no one can see the truth of the situation. If she could scream the facts on national news, no one would believe her. No one would imagine that a brilliant scientist of Adrian’s stature could be a monster. For all intents and purposes, the real Adrian Griffin is invisible.
Even after running free and hiding out at a friend’s house, Cecilia can still feel the man’s tentacles reaching for her. She’s afraid to step outdoors. She’s frightened that he’s watching her every time she flips on her computer.
In fact, even after she hears the shocking news that Adrian has died of an apparent suicide, Cecilia still feels him near. Little things happen: doors opening, objects moving from one room to another, creepy sounds echoing down the hallway. And threatening feelings just keep pushing in on Cecilia.
It gets to the point, in fact, that Cecilia’s friends become concerned for her. They worry over her mental health. And then after she seemingly attacks a young girl, all eyes turn to the emotionally damaged woman. She really has lost it, the friends and doctors say. She’s haunted by a man who no longer exists.
But Cecilia knows better. She’s not haunted. No, no, no. She’s being hunted! Yes, that’s the truth of it. She’s being stalked by a mad genius who will not let her go: a man who’s not dead even though they say he is. And there’s really only one simple truth that no one can see:
The real Adrian Griffin is invisible.
People in Cecilia’s life—including her sister Alice and a former college friend, James—go out of their way to help Cecilia in both good and bad times. In fact, when it seems that Cecilia is having something of a mental breakdown, these individuals blame themselves for not caring more for their wounded loved one.
Cecilia comes into some money and immediately decides to give a large piece of it away so that James’ daughter Sydney can go to the college of her choice.
At first (especially if you don’t take the film’s title at face value), it could appear that the odd things happening to Cecilia are the work of spirits from beyond. Soon, though, it’s very clear that’s not the case.
Cecilia displays some cleavage while dressed in bed clothes. We also see her in the shower and wrapped in a towel, but only bare from the shoulders up.
We see two different people with slashed open, gushing wounds on their throats—both inflicted by large, sharp-edged knives. In both cases the camera watches as the individuals bleed out and die. In several short scenes, and one protracted struggle, Cecilia is slammed about and pummeled by an invisible assailant. We see her lifted off the ground, slammed into the walls and the floor, choked and thrown across a room. Young Sydney is also punched on two different occasions. We don’t actually see the punch (because the attacker is invisible), but we hear the strike, see the impact and watch the bloody results. James also gets into a fight with the invisible man and he is beaten mercilessly, blood spattering the walls and floor, until he passes out and is held up, unconscious, by his throat. A series of police officers are battered and bloodied in quick succession as well.
Several people are shot at. A police officer is forced to blow out his own knee with a gunshot. A man is shot in the back, another in the shoulder. And a man is shot several times in the chest, point blank. Someone smashes in a car window, leaving his fist bleeding profusely. We see photos of a suicide victim lying in a pool of his own blood.
Cecilia says Adrian would physically abuse her to get her to obey him. And she passes out and thumps to the floor after being given a prescription drug.
Some seven f-words (including two uses of “mother—er”) and five s-words join a single use of “a–.” God’s and Jesus’ names are both misused once.
Cecilia uses a prescription of diazepam to drug Adrian on the night she sneaks away from his house. Later she discovers that she has been mysteriously dosed by the same drug. She also says that she was taking birth control pills, but then learns that Adrian traded them out for a placebo. We see Cecilia injected on several occasions while in a hospital’s care.
Much of how Cecilia is treated and manipulated throughout the film is reflective of the kind of emotional and physical violence a woman would endure in an abusive relationship. That’s obviously a purposely made visual and dramatic choice, but it also feels misogynistic and disturbing.
The invisible villain pulls the covers off two sleeping young women (fully dressed for bed) and takes pictures of them. It’s also revealed that the guy sent out nasty, hurtful emails to Cecilia’s friends from her online account.
If you look closely, you’ll find that sci-fi pics and monster movies have always been prime repositories for subtle, woven-in messages about all sorts of social, political and environmental problems facing mankind. But you won’t need to dig deep for message behind The Invisible Man.
Universal Studios’ latest contemporary reboot of the H.G. Wells’ classic reshapes the tale into something of a #MeToo movement horror flick. The story focuses solely on the pummeled female victim rather than the villain who no one can see.
That narrative shift works at times, making the film tense, uncomfortable and psychologically visceral. And director Leigh Whannell’s sharp-edged jump-scares, polished visuals, pulsing and growling soundtrack and steady pacing keeps the audience wincing and on the edge of its seat.
However, by subordinating the invisible bad guy and downplaying the sci-fi nuts-and-bolts that make him tick—and in turn spotlighting a metaphorical message about the torment and psychological abuse of women—the filmmakers have also made this a more difficult movie to watch.
Whannel has crafted a film that plays out more as cruel reality than science fiction. We sympathize deeply with the young heroine, which makes the abuse she suffers all the more difficult to watch. In a way, moviegoers can feel complicit in the acts, sitting passively and voyeuristically aside. And ultimately this Invisible Man becomes a foul-mouthed, battering and bloody film that declares a particular kind of necessary murder to be perfectly justifiable.
To some that may feel cathartic.
But is it healthy, empowering and entertaining? Far less so than you might imagine. Cruelty and bloody revenge rarely are.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.