Content warnings: mental abuse, sexual abuse
Elisabeth Moss has been having a busy 2020 between The Invisible Man, Shirley, and starting her own production company, Love & Squalor Pictures with Lindsey McManus.
One of the last movies to hit the theaters before covid lockdowns began was Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man on February 28th, 2020. Universal Studios announced soon after that the movie would be available to rent on Friday 20th March 2020 with 48-hour viewing windows for $19.99.
The Invisible Man was met with praise from fans and critics, alike, with director/producer/actor Jordan Peele taking to Twitter to let his followers know how much he loved Moss’ acting and Whannell’s directing.
A classic story meets the 21st century
This modern retelling of the H.G. Wells’ novel, which was first made into a movie in Universal’s 1933 adaptation starring Claude Rains, tells the story of Cecelia Cass (Moss) as she runs away in the middle of the night from her boyfriend, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). She is helped by her sister, Emily (Harriet Dyer), and her childhood friend, James (Aldis Hodge). Upon hearing the news that Adrian has taken his own life, Cecelia opens up to Emily and James about the variety of abuse that she was suffering in the presence of Adrian.
Cecelia talks about how Adrian controlled what she wore, when she left the house, what she ate, and, eventually, what she said and what she thought, even switched out her birth control, he would hit her “amongst other things”. She didn’t want to have a baby with him because then she knew she’d be unable to leave and, later on after Cecelia learns that she is, indeed, pregnant, Adrian and his brother/lawyer Tom (Michael Dorman), use it to blackmail her to try and get her to go back to Adrian.
During a watch party on March 20th, 2020, on Twitter, with the hashtag #TheInvisibleManAtHome, Whannell discussed plot points with fans, including Adrian’s intentions with getting Cecelia pregnant
Horror that comes close to home for many
Some victims of abuse did not feel comfortable with going to see the movie after the trailer alone was triggering their PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
PTSD can affect people differently, depending on the circumstances. It often coincides with other conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. According to The Recovery Village, about 70 percent of adults have experienced a traumatic event in their life and about 20 percent will go on to develop PTSD to some level. 49 percent of rape victims and nerly 32 percent of victims of physical assault will develop PTSD.
The audience learns that Adrian had begun putting a wedge between Cecelia and Emily. After Emily receives an e-mail appearing to be from Cecelia (actually sent by Adrian), Emily viciously responds and tells her that, “If you’re too stupid to know who the good guys are and too weak to get away from the bad ones don’t sob to me for charity.” Cecelia begs for her sister’s strength and for her to believe her and Cecelia is desperate to find “proof” so people will believe that she’s being stalked by her abusive ex.
Even Adrian’s brother knows that was able to get into people’s heads and that was his smartest trait. He felt that the only thing better than inventinting something that made him invisible was not inventing that suit but making people believe that he had. Tom even admits his brother controls him and he always hated him for it.
The hosts of The Pod and the Pendulum Podcast reached out to Whannell during the watch party in March
If you’ve ever dealt with anything like this to any extent, you know the feeling of looking over your shoulder. If you work in retail or at a restaurant you worry that said person will come in and you’ll either have to put on a brave face or hide in the back until they’re gone.
A director that put the audience in the middle of the story
As Whannell was directing The Invisible Man, he made it a point to make the audience feel “suspicious” about whether Adrian was in the room or not as they were watching negative space on the screen. Whannel said that he, “wanted this character to be a real presence in the movie without being seen,” and he also began “weaponizing an audience’s knowledge of movies against them” to set up tension, because audiences have become savvy to modern horror movie tropes of jump scares.
The first time we see Adrian in action, he violently chases after her and punches through a car window trying to stop Cecelia from escaping. The last time we see him, he greets Cecelia for dinner and looks very charming and “desperately” tries to get her back. He tells her, ”I need you, Cecelia. I know I didn’t treat you the way you deserved to be treated while we were together but I’ve learned my lesson. I would burn everything I own just to prove that to you.” This scene is ultimately Cecelia confronting her abuser and her rapist. Cecelia implores him to, “Just tell me the truth. I need to know that I’m not crazy.” Adrian still denies he had done anything wrong, making Cecelia continue to question her own sanity and her own experiences.
Beyond just the verbal manipulation that is Adrian gaslighting Cecelia, while invisible, he literally does it with a “gas” stove (heating a pan of bacon until it bursts into flames) and “light” (by turning the lights on and off throughout the house).
The potential for more Invisible stories
Up next is Elizabeth Banks on deck to direct and star in The Invisible Woman for Universal, based on an original idea by Banks. Although there has been no confirmation that this film will tie in at all with Whannell’s story, there is a lot of open potential for Banks’ version to be a sequel or “sister” film.
We did get The Invisible Woman in 1940 as part of the Universal Pictures monster movies. During an interview with Insider, Moss stated that she would, “be 100% into making a sequel to The Invisible Man. I would be 100% into continuing to tell that story. There’s definitely something to do there with her.”
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