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The Invisible Man First Reviews: A Rare Superb Remake Anchored by an Outstanding Elisabeth Moss

Critics say Leigh Whannell's reboot of the Universal Classic Monster flick is timely, effectively crafted, full of Hitchcockian suspense, and a showcase for its accomplished star.

by | February 25, 2020 | Comments

Following a misstep with an attempted cinematic universe, the Universal Classic Monsters brand is on the rebound with a new, “Hitchcockian” version of The Invisible Man. According to the first reviews of the horror remake, going smaller in budget and more topical in its story was the best decision. Well, aside from casting Elisabeth Moss in the lead as the woman being terrorized by the titular foe, an abusive ex-husband with the power to be unseeable — even the few negative-leaning takes on the movie celebrate her performance. Is it also scary enough? Will its effects wow you? Do its currently relevant themes resonate? We break it all down below.

Here’s what critics are saying about The Invisible Man:


Is it a worthy remake?

The Invisible Man demands to be seen, because this is the right way to reboot a horror movie.
– William Bibbiani, The Wrap

It’s everything a remake should be, and then some… One of the best things you will see this year.
– Doug Jamieson, The Jam Report

The Invisible Man is respectful to the classic Universal monster movie with which it shares its name, but this is no reverential retread.
– Philip De Semlyen, Time Out

The Invisible Man is a superb genre effort that absolutely deserves to be seen.
– Anthony O’Connor, FilmInk

This new The Invisible Man is no fun.
– Armond White, National Review


Does it honor H.G. Wells’ original story?

A truly arresting, up-to-the-moment take on old material that makes it feel as fresh and new as if it had been conceived today.
Huw Fullerton, Radio Times

The new version has so little to do with H.G. Wells’ original story that Wells doesn’t seem to be credited. Anywhere. At all. Not even a “Special Thank You.” Maybe he turned invisible too.
William Bibbiani, The Wrap

If Blumhouse had integrity, it would have honored H. G. Wells’ thesis that mankind’s inherent narcissism implicates us all.
Armond White, National Review


Universal Pictures
(Photo by Universal Pictures)

What does it do for the Universal Classic Monsters brand?

Does the legacy proud… We finally have a Universal Monster to be scared of again.
Norman Gidney, HorrorBuzz

[It’s] a successful restart to Universal’s attempts to bring its classic monsters into the modern era.
Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

Where Universal’s monsters are concerned, let’s hope we see more of its like.
Kevin Harley, Total Film

If they wind up all being as exceptional as Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, we have many years of fantastic horror cinema ahead of us.
Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend


What will it remind us of?

The Invisible Man delivers Hitchcock levels of tension, suspense and outright terror.
Edward Douglas, The Weekend Warrior

There’s something Hitchcockian about the way this The Invisible Man plays out.
John Nugent, Empire Magazine

[Cecilia’s] moments of lucidity and positive intent become increasingly dominated by degrees of disorientation and general out-of-it-ness in ways that remind of some Hitchcock heroines, notably Ingrid Bergman in Notorious.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

The Hitchcock glamour and attention to detail are there… I am a huge Hitchcock fan which I think added to my enjoyment of this movie.
Grace Randolph, Beyond the Trailer


Universal Pictures
(Photo by Universal Pictures)

Is it scary?

It puts you right on edge from the get-go and sets up the prospect of how the ordinary can be terrifying.
Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

The idea of Elisabeth Moss stalking around a dark attic with a flashlight may not seem particularly scary, but trust me – in Whannell’s hands, it is.
Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

I got so scared, a couple of times I had to look away from the screen, which was hilariously ironic, because of course this is a movie about an invisible man — there’s nothing to see up there.
Grace Randolph, Beyond the Trailer

Shots of nothing portend everything. This subtle approach is incredibly effective, and a reminder of how horror doesn’t always have to be frantic to raise dread.
John Nugent, Empire Magazine

The Invisible Man lacks for truly terrifying moments. The film plays more like a thriller than a horror.
Jude Dry, IndieWire

The debate will rage over whether to call this a horror movie.
Doug Jamieson, The Jam Report


Either way, is it intense?

Leigh Whannell, who created some incredible unique action sequences in his last movie, Upgrade, goes whole hog when it comes to the Invisible Man attack sequences.
Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

The writer-director well knows how to pace and space his revelations and jolts, how much to show and how much to withhold.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

The big action spectacles, when we get there, feel worth the wait, as the filmmakers know when to ramp up the dazzling “invisible man” effects and when to pull them back.
Angie Han, Mashable


Universal Pictures
(Photo by Universal Pictures)

How are the effects?

The visual effects are flawless.
Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

They could easily create any invisible effect with modern technology, but Whannell knows that less is more.
Fred Topel, Showbiz CheatSheet

The special effects work can look somewhat hokey.
Doug Jamieson, The Jam Report


Is it a more character-driven effort?

Moss, Hodge Reid and Kass are all open, inviting actors who earn our investment in their emotions and dilemmas.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

With steady character work banking our investment, Whannell tightens the screws to scare.
Kevin Harley, Total Film


How is Elisabeth Moss?

She delivers one of the best performances of her career.
Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

It’s a captivating and empathetic performance that’s easily her best mainstream cinematic effort to date.
Doug Jamieson, The Jam Report

She is absolutely magnificent, so haunting to watch.
Sharronda Williams, Pay or Wait

Elisabeth Moss is absolutely mesmerizing… The movie is a great showcase for what she’s capable of as an actor.
Edward Douglas, The Weekend Warrior

That it works quite as well as it does is down in no small part to Moss herself, who commits to the role with a ferocious intensity.
Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

Moss is the key to making all the scary-movie filmmaking work… She is terrific.
Brian Truitt, USA Today

It’s all the more impressive as she’s often acting against nothing.
Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

Watching her fight for her life against the title monster is a feat of physical acting, not to mention a devilishly effective visual effect.
William Bibbiani, The Wrap

Casting Moss in the lead was easily the best investment the producers made.
Norman Gidney, HorrorBuzz


Universal Pictures
(Photo by Universal Pictures)

Anything else deserve recognition?

Let’s give a shout out to the sound designers, taken for granted so often, and then proven utterly essential when filmmakers have little else to hang their hats on.
Simon Miraudo, Student Edge

I really love the positive images of the black family… and I just wanted to give a shout out to them for that.
Sharronda Williams, Pay or Wait


Does the movie work with its heavy themes?

It does an admirable job of taking us back to a time when a horror film could actually mean something.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

This film does a great job of talking about domestic violence, survivors of domestic violence, what life looks like if they’re lucky enough to get out of that situation.
Sharronda Williams, Pay or Wait

There is a universal and uncomfortably real impact to the horrors on show here. Which, inevitably, will make it a tough watch for some.
John Nugent, Empire Magazine

Women will find an extra level of horror and truth to this movie.
Grace Randolph, Beyond the Trailer

The analogy of the woman no one believes is all too relevant today, but it’s a cliche we’ve seen before and in far better films.
Jude Dry, IndieWire

While Whannell wants to say something, what he actually has to say doesn’t amount to all that much.
Benjamin Lee, Guardian


Universal Pictures
(Photo by Universal Pictures)

Are there any major problems?

Like much of the film, the final scene opts for shock value over something more drawn out and it ends with a whimper rather than a roar.
Benjamin Lee, Guardian

The film’s demand that we pay close attention for any sign of the invisible man proves a double-edged sword. Just as his aggressions become harder and harder to ignore, so too do the film’s narrative blemishes.
Angie Han, Mashable


Could this be the start of a new horror franchise?

It’s not clear where a sequel to this would lead, but if Moss is on board the filmmakers will already be ahead of the game.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter


The Invisible Man is in theaters on February 28.

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 108.04%
Critics Consensus: Smart, well-acted, and above all scary, The Invisible Man proves that sometimes, the classic source material for a fresh reboot can be hiding in plain sight.
Synopsis: Trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy and brilliant scientist, Cecilia Kass (Moss) escapes in the dead of... [More]
Directed By: Leigh Whannell

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