Finding its source material from the H.G. Wells novel that spawned a classic from the heyday of the Universal Monsters movies, Leigh Whannell’s take on the subject matter spins a 21st century play to the mix. While the title character wreaks his havoc, it’s the central woman in the story who is truly invisible. This is a horror tale in the #MeToo era and an often potent one at that.
We open with Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) trying to escape her abusive marriage in the middle of the night without being seen. Her husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), we discover later, is a controlling and dangerous figure. He’s also a mega rich tech genius (think Tony Stark with far more personal demons). Cecilia manages to flee and stay with an old friend who’s also a detective (Aldis Hodge) and his teen daughter (Storm Reid). Afraid to even walk outside, her fears subside when Adrian is found dead of apparent suicide. The relief is short-lived when an unseen force starts stalking Cecilia yet again and all signs point to the apparently departed husband.
Whannell has been an integral player in the scares genre with his involvement in the Saw and Insidious franchises. He is a stylish filmmaker who knows how to construct a suspenseful setup. We have grown rather wearily accustomed to the jump scares that permeate these genre exercises. They are here, but I will say a couple of them really land the jab. There’s a scene in an upscale restaurant where still or sparkling water becomes an afterthought due to a genuinely surprising moment.
That scene and many others are tremendously assisted by the convincing and freaked out to the max performance of Moss. She conveys her fear of Adrian with wide eyed terror and, eventually, a resolve to change the power dynamic. The screenplay (from the director) smartly doesn’t employ flashback sequences to show her cycle of abuse. Her fear says enough. The two-hour running time is a bit out of the ordinary for this type of material and the final third is somewhat of a letdown when the plot becomes more literal with its explanations. However, with Moss’s work fully in control of her out of control situation, The Invisible Man is a creative modern rendering of a familiar monster.
Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, updating the H.G. Wells novel and classic 1933 film, debuts Friday. With 90% currently on Rotten Tomatoes, the word-of-mouth should propel the pic to quite visible box office numbers. In doing so, Invisible should break a streak of underperforming horror titles in recent months.
Much of the praise from reviewers is centered on its lead Elisabeth Moss. The Emmy winner for The Handmaid’s Tale garnered a small amount of Oscar buzz in 2019 for Her Smell that never came to fruition. I look for this to be the third year in a row where an actress garners buzz for a scary movie. In 2018, it was Toni Collette in Ari Aster’s Hereditary. In 2019 – Lupita Nyong’o for Jordan Peele’s Us. Both performers received a few wins from the critics groups. They both failed to get nods come Academy time.
This will likely be the case for Moss as well, but expect lots of speculation that she could make the cut before she doesn’t. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Horror pics have faced a tough road so far in 2020 as The Grudge, The Turning, Gretel & Hansel, and Fantasy Island have all posted lackluster debuts. This weekend, I don’t see the trend stopping with Brahms: The Boy II. I do see it changing next Friday with The Invisible Man. From director Leigh Whannell (who recently made Insidious: Chapter 3 and Upgrade), this is an update of the H.G. Wells novel that was turned into a classic 1933 James Whale tale. Elisabeth Moss (who co-starred in last year’s Us) headlines a cast that includes Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, and Harriet Dyer.
This project was originally intended as a vehicle for Johnny Depp as part of Universal’s plans for a franchise that began with 2017’s The Mummy. When that pic brought in less than expected returns, the monster series was scrapped. The Invisible Man has undergone a significant transformation with Blumhouse co-producing. Per usual with that production company, the budget is tiny (a reported $7 million).
Early word-of-mouth is strong with screening members reporting a tense and effective crowd pleaser. Whannell appears to be a filmmaker on the upswing and Moss certainly has her fans from The Handmaid’s Tale and more.
I believe Invisible will be quite visible on the radar screens of genre moviegoers and break the streak of scary disappointments over the past few weeks. A gross of over $30 million might be the result.
The Invisible Man opening weekend prediction: $33.8 million
Blumhouse Productions is out with its latest low-budget flick that hopes to generate high dollar figures when Upgrade debuts next weekend. The sci-fi horror revenge pic comes from director Leigh Whannell, best known for his involvement in the Insidious franchise (including directing its third chapter). Logan Marshall-Green, Betty Gabriel (best known as the creepy housekeeper in Get Out), and Harrison Gilbertson are among the cast. Early reviews have been decent as it currently stands at 73% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Upgrade is slated to open on a rather low 1400 screens and that will limit its potential. I would not anticipate this coming anywhere near the massive successes that Jason Blum and his studio have achieved with titles like the aforementioned Get Out, Split, or Happy Death Day. Instead it appears destined to premiere similar to BH Tilt’s lesser offerings like The Belko Experiment, The Green Inferno, or Incarnate – none of which managed to clear $5 million for their starts.
The first new wide release of 2018 is out next Friday when Insidious: The Last Key enters theaters. This is the fourth chapter in the franchise that began in 2011. Like Chapter 3, it’s a prequel to the events of the first two. In other words, no Patrick Wilson or Rose Byrne (the stars of the originals). James Wan, director and 1 and 2, produces with Adam Robitel behind the camera. Leigh Whannell, who’s served as writer for all of them, costars along with Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Josh Stewart, and Bruce Davison.
One factor that could assist The Last Key is the absence of horror flicks in the marketplace at the moment. That said, this franchise has been losing its luster. The 2011 original debuted to $13 million but legged out very nicely for its genre with an eventual $54 million gross. The 2013 sequel was the pinnacle with a terrific $40 million opening weekend and $83 million total tally. Chapter 3 in 2015 premiered to $22 million, but ended up as the lowest earner of the series with $52 million.
I don’t see a compelling reason why part 4 will rebound. For comparison sake, I could see this performing similarly to 2014’s Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, which opened in the first weekend of January to just over $18 million. Like this, that was an entry in a franchise whose steam had dissipated. That number seems to be where Key fits best.
Insidious: The Last Key opening weekend prediction: $18.6 million
Focus Features has had a nice little horror cash cow in the Insidious franchise and the third edition hits theaters Friday. Chapter 3 is a prequel and therefore original stars of its predecessors Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne are nowhere to be found (in fact Byrne is busy this weekend with Spy).
Dermot Mulroney and Stefanie Scott headline with Leigh Whannell making his directorial debut after writing chapters 1 and 2. Insidious: Chapter 2 surprised prognosticators when it landed a $40 million debut in September 2013. It would be a bit of a shocker to see this follow up post that number, but you never know. I believe this will manage a start in the mid to high 20s, settling for second to Melissa McCarthy’s Spy.
Insidious: Chapter 3 opening weekend prediction: $26 million