Next month, director Leigh Whannell (Upgrade, Saw) and Universal Pictures in cooperation with Blumhouse Pictures will be releasing their updated version of The Invisible Man. The film, which is based on the classic sci-fi story from H.G. Wells, stars Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid and Oliver Jackson-Cohen. It’s a modern and incredibly disturbing remake of the original 1933 film that starred Claude Rains.
The first trailer was released late last year and focuses on Cecelia Kass (Moss), an abused woman who is trying to move on after the supposed suicide of her violent scientist boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Jackson-Cohen). As Cecelia grapples with her doubt about Griffin’s suicide, he leaves her 5 million dollars with the eerie contingency that she not be ruled “mentally incompetent”. When strange events start to occur that reinforce her belief that he is not dead and that his abuse has gone to a new and ruthless level, she is driven to prove to her family and friends that he is still alive at all costs. Whannell is deftly tackling the real horror women experience as victims of abuse by people they know and how hard they work to be believed thru the prism of an Invisible Man abusing his powers. It’s certainly a topical and thoroughly unsettling approach that could resonate with audiences.
The Invisible Man is Universal’s latest attempt to restart their monster universe following the short-lived Dark Universe, which kicked off with The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise. You remember those plans, right? The A-list approach with that famous picture of Russell Crowe, Javier Bardem, Cruise, Johnny Depp, and Sofia Boutella looking damn dapper. With The Invisible Man, Universal has gone with a new, smaller approach where each director is handed a character or “monster” in the Dark Universe, just focuses on making a good film, not required to connect it up to a larger universe. It doesn’t mean that these characters might not end up joining forces in some way down the road, it just means that that isn’t the focus now. If DC’s successful new approach to their superhero movies after the negative reactions to the DCEU is any kind of example, this could end up working out quite well for Universal.
Late last year, I was part of a team of journalists who were invited to visit the set of The Invisible Man in Australia to speak with members of the cast and crew about their experiences making the film. We interviewed Hodge, Reid, Jackson-Cohen, Whannell, executive producer Beatriz Sequeria, and Production Designer Alex Holmes. We were also surprised to speak with a game Elisabeth Moss, who doesn’t usually do these interviews while on set. While we were there, we were also treated to a scene being filmed (that shows up in the trailer) where Cecelia is staring at a bedroom chair believing that her invisible, abusive husband is sitting in it. It was just as unnerving to watch being shot as it is for those few seconds it appears in the trailer.
We’ll see how resonant and disquieting this version of The Invisible Man will be when it appears in theaters on February 28, 2020. In the meantime, here are 26 things we learned about the movie and how the actors approached making it to get you ready for its release.
- Director Leigh Whannell stated that this is a science fiction horror with the stress being on the science aspect of this term.
- Whannell saw the character of the Invisible Man as the Aquaman of the Dark Universe; a character that was the butt of the jokes and wasn’t as revered as other characters in his universe. So, he wanted to make him “cool” like James Wan did with Arthur Curry.
- In a meeting with Universal Pictures, Whannell was pitched the Invisible Man project. The executives were stuck with seeing the IM as the protagonist, but he turned them around by pitching the IM as the bad guy. He reverse-engineered the story from that pitch with the focus on the IM as the antagonist of the story.
- The film is set in the near future with Whannell wanting it to feel “real” and relatable to modern audiences, so he shied away from a Victorian feel to it, anyone “drinking potions” or glasses floating in the air.
- Whannell also confirmed that Universal’s plan is to have individual filmmakers who have an idea for a monster just focus on their movie and not worry about linking it to other films or an overall universe.
- For Whannell, he was heavily influenced by Roman Polanski’s films Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant in making this movie.
The psychological implications of NOT seeing someone there even though it feels like they are there is an idea that intrigued Whannell. He also wanted it to be a thriller/horror film that occurs in the light.
- There was a hope in that the film would be much easier than Upgrade to shoot, but Whannell was proven wrong. He said that “This film is to Upgrade like Lawrence of Arabia is to a cat video on YouTube.”
- Jason Blum and Blumhouse convinced Whannell to make the film in Australia after they saw how much bang for his buck he got when he was shooting Upgrade there.
- Elisabeth Moss was influenced by a number of films like The Others and Prisoners to get her into the headspace of a woman descending into madness.
- Moss also revealed that she is a massive “horror movie junkie”.
- Moss was intrigued by the idea of someone who 100% believes in something that is absolutely impossible and felt that was a great challenge for her as an actress.
- Executive Producer Beatriz Sequeria confirmed that the movie is set in San Francisco, California and that the script did not change at all once they started shooting.
- Sequeria also revealed that Australian company Cutting Edge is doing the VFX for the movie.
- Production Designer Alex Holmes stated that one of the biggest challenges he faced making the movie were the sensitive, awkward locations they had to build their sets into.
- Holmes realized early in the process that they would need to build the house they were going to use on a soundstage because they could not find a house that would service all of their story needs.
There is a subterranean lab featured in the movie which was Holmes’ favorite set, but he was stopped quickly from going further into it for fear he might reveal a spoiler or two.
- Holmes also confirmed that the entire production team’s approach to the movie was as a thriller and not as a horror movie.
- Storm Reid provided some insight into her character of Sydney. Reid described her as a fun-loving teenage girl who enjoys fashion, but was stopped from going to college due to “life events”. She wouldn’t specify what those events were because of spoilers.
- Reid stated that Moss’s Cecelia is essentially a mother figure to Sydney.
- Reid also confirmed that she was told many times to not see this film as a horror film, but rather a sci-fi thriller.
- The idea of being invisible yet still being able to destroy someone’s life was a purposeful decision to keep those themes in the movie, said Reid. She related them to how people on social media hide behind avatars in order to troll or leave inappropriate comments that can destroy people’s lives.
- Aldis Hodge liked the aspect of playing a single father in this movie because he feels there is an import in portraying a situation like this positively onscreen.
- Hodge felt this film is a perfect combo of thriller and horror with a real PTSD story about abuse at the center of it.
- Jackson-Cohen found a lot of motivations for his character in a number of currently successful, rich leaders who use gaslighting as an effective tool to manipulate narratives.
- Jackson-Cohen’s, who is British, confirmed that Adrian Griffin is an American.
For more, check out our coverage of the most recent trailer for The Invisible Man and check out our roundup of the best horror films from the early years of cinema.