The Invisible Man: Universal's Monster History Moves Into the Future
One of the most iconic horror stories of all time is returning to the big screen! Ironically, this particular monster will appear as you've never seen it before: THE INVISIBLE MAN is back in 2020 with a very modern take on an old classic from the Universal Monsters library.
Elisabeth Moss headlines this clever retelling from filmmaker Leigh Whannell, which reimagines the story from the point of view of the titular character’s wife. Read on to learn more about this exciting new horror film and how it breathes new life into this famous monster’s story.
The Monster Mash
The so-called Universal Monsters are icons within the horror genre. Dracula, Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man, the Creature From the Black Lagoon all toplined black-and-white films, largely based on literary horror classics. The films were major in their time, from the 1930s all the way to around 1960. There were sequels, spinoffs, and crossovers; old-school funny guys Abbott and Costello even got involved.
It was all the sort of thing that’s become more common in the modern era, with superhero franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although Universal produced tons of movies featuring dozens of monsters (like Dracula’s daughter!), only a handful have remained truly memorable – so it’s no surprise that we’ve seen these stories reinterpreted in the decades since.
Often in the past couple of decades, these icons of fright have been reimagined in movies that are far more action-heavy than their predecessors. 1999’s THE MUMMY, starring Brendan Fraser, spawned its own franchise that continued into the 2000s. 2004’s VAN HELSING cast Wolverine superstar Hugh Jackman as the titular vampire hunter, pitting him against various monsters and ghouls.
In 2010, Benicio del Toro played the lead role in THE WOLFMAN from filmmaker Joe Johnston, who would go on to direct CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER. More recently, Tom Cruise starred in a new take on THE MUMMY, and Universal had plans to reboot the classic Monsters franchise with actors like Javier Bardem as Frankenstein and Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man.
That plan didn’t exactly pan out, and that’s where Leigh Whannell – a filmmaker best known for his work on the SAW and INSIDIOUS franchises – comes in. Whannell, who’d recently directed the great sci-fi thriller UPGRADE, signed on to direct a new version of THE INVISIBLE MAN. Instead of casting Depp, Whannell went with Oliver Jackson Cohen, star of Netflix’s "The Haunting of Hill House." And rather than focus on the Invisible Man himself, Whannell’s story centers on the character's wife.
The classic 1933 film, itself based on H.G. Wells’ 19th-century novel, told the story of a brilliant chemist who stumbled upon a formula that could make him invisible. Unfortunately, as a side effect, it also made the chemist insane and sent him on a rampage.
In this new reimagining, Elisabeth Moss ("The Handmaid’s Tale") stars as Cecilia Kass, who is trapped in an abusive relationship with wealthy scientist Adrian Griffin (Cohen). After she escapes, Cecilia goes into hiding with her sister (rising star Harriet Dyer), their close friend (Aldis Hodge of STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON), and his daughter (A WRINKLE IN TIME’s Storm Reid). But when Adrian abruptly dies and leaves his entire estate to Cecilia, a series of disturbing incidents threatening those closest to her make Cecilia believe Adrian is not dead after all.
In other words, THE INVISIBLE MAN isn’t a flat-out remake, but a reimagining that brings a whole new perspective to the concept. The original 1933 movie is a pulpy and entertaining effects showcase, with a few setpieces that are spectacular even now. The movie did not dive deep into the experience of any character, however, and that's where Whannell's new INVISIBLE MAN will be different.
Moss's character becomes a way to explore how the feeling of being mistreated, gaslit, and manipulated can become out-and-out horror. It feels incredibly modern and thoughtful, sort of like if someone remade THE FLY (again) in order to tell the story from the point of view of Geena Davis’ character in the ’80s version. If this INVISIBLE MAN has the power and the horror of that remake, it will truly propel the Universal Monsters into a new era.
The Invisible Man opens on February 28!
All images courtesy of Universal Pictures.