Right off the bat, this latest remake of the classic H.G. Wells story shows us just how suspenseful it can be. It’s the middle of the night and a wide-awake Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss) quietly climbs out of bed so as not to disturb her sleeping partner Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). It quickly becomes apparent that she has been waiting and planning for this moment to leave him for some time now, and she is absolutely terrified of waking him up. She creeps through their spacious modern glass home, gathering some of her belongings and occasionally checking a mobile feed of the CCTV camera that she has re-positioned in order to see Adrian asleep in bed. Already the tension is unbearable, and we’re only a few minutes into the movie!
A few weeks after her dramatic escape from Adrian and Cecilia is now in the safety of a friends house, police detective James (Aldis Hodge) and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). It’s clear that the years of living with an abusive and controlling partner have taken their toll on Cecilia and she can barely even bring herself to leave the house, fearful of every stranger that passes her by. We don’t get to see any of what went on in her relationship with Adrian, and we barely know anything of him either, other than he is a tech billionaire and an expert in the field of ‘optics’. So, when word reaches Cecilia that Adrian has committed suicide, we’re even more in the dark about him. He becomes more of an unknown to us, making him all the more mysterious, and the events that consequently unfold throughout the movie all the more terrifying.
As Cecilia begins to settle back into some kind of normality, she slowly lets her guard down, which as we all know is a big mistake! While Cecilia is alone, we start to get different points of view of her, as if someone is watching her. We focus on areas of the house where nobody is in shot, before panning around to reveal…. nothing. Cecilia is not aware of anything, and we haven’t seen anything either, but you’re left on the edge of your seat, straining your eyes to desperately try and pick out some kind of evidence that someone or something is there with her. And then we begin to get confirmation that an invisible something is actually there – a falling knife, a kitchen fire and things being tampered with all start to put Cecilia back on edge, leading her to suspect that Adrian has found some way to continue making her life a misery. These events start off very subtle, but soon become more horrific and intense, clearly intended to gaslight Cecilia and portray her as crazy to everyone around her.
The traditional route for a movie like this would be to focus on our title character – in this case the invisible man. We might see a brilliant or tortured scientist, succeeding or failing with whatever they’re experimenting with, before following them and the consequences of their actions. By giving us very little backstory to our title character, writer and director Leigh Whannell has chosen instead to focus primarily on Cecilia and the psychological horror she endures. Elizabeth Moss gives us the full range of emotions as she endures her terrible ordeal, and you really do share in her isolation and terror throughout. She completely and brilliantly carries the movie – progressing from the lowest of lows to finally, and brilliantly, deciding it’s time to fight back!