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Invisible Man (2020) (4K Ultra HD), The
Leigh Whannell is one of the most exciting directors working at the moment, and those who have not yet seen his expertly crafted 2018 B-movie Upgrade should check it out. Whannell got his start writing and starring in the Saw franchise before penning Insidious and the Clint Eastwood property The Mule. Based on the 1897 H.G. Wells novel, The Invisible Man likely would have looked much different had the 2017 remake of The Mummy with Tom Cruise not tanked. Universal Studios intended to restart its Dark Universe, with films like The Mummy, The Invisible Man and updates of other classic monster films like The Wolf Man and Dracula. While a shared cinematic universe is off, Universal remains committed to the properties, and has wisely decided to allow auteurs to create standalone films with strong, independent stories. One of the better horror films in recent memory, The Invisible Man offers slow-burn chills and an expert performance from Elisabeth Moss, whose character flees a relationship wrought with domestic violence but cannot escape the feeling that her captor is still nearby.
Cecilia "Cee" Kass (Moss) flees her modern, oceanside mansion in the dark of night. Her violent, controlling boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is a brilliant scientist who specializes in ocular technology and desperately wants a child. Cee's sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) whisks her away to live with a police-detective friend James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). Cee can barely open the front door without panicking and shies away from the world outside. Emily visits a few weeks later with the news that Adrian has committed suicide, and his attorney brother Tom (Michael Dorman) informs Cee that she stands to inherit $5 million from his estate. Cee decompresses and begins healing, generously providing for Sydney's college fund and rejoining society, but remains uneasy as strange occurrences around her reveal that she may not be free of Adrian after all.
The Invisible Man is one of the last films released in theaters before the COVID-19 pandemic darkened marquees, and Universal quickly changed the release-window game by offering the property for digital download in March after its successful opening. Despite the promise of Whannell at the helm, I did not expect The Invisible Man to be such a tight, unnerving thriller based on its early marketing. This is not a film content to throw a few cheap jump scares at the audience and conclude (though there are a number of shocking jolts); The Invisible Man instead creates a slow-burn tension that becomes unbearable as Cee's world comes crashing down around her. Domestic violence is ugly and pervasive. I have seen come comments online questioning Cee's nighttime escape from Adrian and subsequent crippling fear. As a prosecutor familiar with domestic violence cases, her experience rings pretty true to life, and Cee discusses later in the film how Adrian controlled her dress, actions and ultimately her thoughts. This also explains while she and Emily have grown apart. When an unseen antagonist begins tormenting Cee, it is clear that the attacks are personal, and the invisible foe is not above hurting those around her. A slap sends Sydney reeling, convinced that Cee has assaulted her. Subtle chills come when a breath of hot air wafts behind Cee as she stands outdoors, and a stove mysteriously turns into a fire hazard. Whannell refuses to solely rely on searing audible stingers to frighten, and instead taunts the audience with what may or may not be visible in frame.
Moss is a gem here; her performance is vivid and totally convincing. Poor Cee gets so wound up by the unfair torment that it is no surprise she ultimately ends up under psychiatric evaluation. The Invisible Man takes viewers right to the edge with Cee. No one believes the shocking violence around her is caused by a third party, especially Adrian, and she begins to lose friends and family. But the film gives Cee a voice. She is able to fight back. Whannell realizes that with great tension must come great release, and The Invisible Man is a true three-act thriller. If further Dark Universe properties get standalone movies as good as The Invisible Man then viewers are in for a treat. Moss leads an excellent supporting cast, and Hodge is especially good as her rock. Whannell's screenplay is tight and effective, and the film has no trouble maintaining its nerve for almost two hours. Fans of Saw will appreciate some of the film's nastier moments, and there are at least two scenes where I stood slack-jawed before clapping in response to what unfolded on screen. The Invisible Man is skillfully directed, expertly acted, dramatically satisfying and frequently scary, setting it apart in the world of fungible modern horror.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
The film arrives on physical media with a 2.39:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10+ from a native 4K source and it looks amazing. Fine-object detail and texture are off the charts, and noticeably improved from the included Blu-ray edition. This clarity adds to the tension, as every corner of every room and every shadow detail is visible as the director intended. Depth of field is excellent, and the film maintains a pleasing, three-dimensional appearance throughout. Black levels are rock-solid and color saturation and highlights are nearly perfect. The HDR pass heightens color realism but also improves shadows, the use of natural light, and the film's overall composition and lighting on screen. The movie looks great in motion, totally lacking in blur or compression artifacts.
The Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which I sampled as a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix, is also excellent, providing an extremely atmospheric, theater-like experience in the home theater. The sound mix here just works and this surround track is fully supportive of its mix masters. Dialogue is crystal clear from every angle, and quiet effects are absolutely audible during scenes of heightened terror. Rain, gun shots and footsteps reel around the viewer, and action-heavy scenes are given tremendous LFE support and control over the entire sound field. The accompanying score is blended in appropriately, and neither element crowding nor distortion is ever an issue. The disc also includes a Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus mix, a French 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, and English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set arrives in a black 4K case and includes the 4K disc, a Blu-ray and a Movies Anywhere digital copy. The artwork is somewhat underwhelming, but the lightly embossed slipcover looks better in person. Extras appear on both discs. You get an informative Audio Commentary by Director/Writer Leigh Whannell and a reel of Deleted Scenes (13:24 total/4K), including one that fixes a slight plot hole. Moss Manifested (3:54/4K) is a brief overview of the Cee character and the actress' performance; Director's Journal with Leigh Whannell (10:51/4K) offers insight from the director and some good on-set footage; The Players (5:24/4K) follows the ensemble cast; and Timeless Terror (3:04/4K) sees Whannell discuss updating a beloved horror property.
Universal Studios and Blumhouse Productions have redeemed the Dark Universe properties after the lousy 2017 The Mummy remake with this tense, moody update of The Invisible Man written and directed Leigh Whannell. Elisabeth Moss gives an excellent performance as a woman tormented by an abusive boyfriend, and Whannell's screenplay offers slow-burn chills, dramatic intrigue and a couple of truly shocking jolts. Highly Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.