Amazon Video On Demand – The Invisible Man: You Should See It

We finally get a good reboot of a Universal horror monster and that should be celebrated.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Cecilia “Cee” Kass (Elisabeth “Dear God I’m Talented” Moss) is in an abusive relationship with optics engineer Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and finally manages to leave him by sneaking out of his compound with the help of her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer). She hides out afterwards with her cop friend James (Aldis “Straight Outta” Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). She soon learns that Adrian has committed suicide. Adrian’s brother Tom (Michael Dorman) informs her that Adrian has left her $5 million dollars which is hers as long as she is found to be of sound mind and commits no crimes. Soon, however, she finds a number of strange things happening around her. She starts to believe that Adrian had figured out how to make himself invisible and is now torturing her for leaving him. 

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At least this isn’t Hollow Man

END SUMMARY

Does everyone remember when Universal had planned their “Dark Universe” series and they announced that Johnny Depp was cast as the Invisible Man? Yeah, me neither, but it did happen and thanks to the colossal screw-up that was The Mummy with Tom Cruise, that idea died harder than the sequel to that one Bruce Willis movie… The Whole Ten Yards. Apparently they decided to try again using the Blumhouse method of cheap production and focusing on interesting storytelling over special effects. Surprisingly, it worked! 

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It’s almost like you should focus on doing a movie well rather than trying to just churn out five.

In some ways this is one of the more faithful adaptations of the source material. H.G. Wells’s original story of The Invisible Man depicted a greedy, ambitious, and cruel scientific student who figures out the secret of invisibility solely for money and then eventually keeps escalating his bad acts until he decides to go on a “reign of terror.” In most of the prior adaptations, including the 1933 The Invisible Man with Claude Rains and the various sequels, the character is generally depicted as benign or sympathetic until the invisibility drives them insane (usually the serum itself causes madness). In this, Adrian Griffin (the same last name as the character from the original novel) is already a monster before he supposedly becomes invisible. He was already controlling and gaslighting Cee when he was just a rich jerk, and that’s actually thematically appropriate for this film.

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Get it? The walls are glass because he works in optics.

One of the inspirations for the original The Invisible Man was the story from Plato’s Republic called “The Ring of Gyges.” In the story, a man finds a ring that makes him invisible (yeah, Tolkien didn’t come up with that) and slowly commits more and more atrocious acts because he realizes he cannot be held accountable. In this film, it’s implied that Adrian’s cruelty is partially derived from his good looks, wealth, and privilege. It’s what allowed him to keep Cee in the abusive relationship to begin with, including having multiple people doubt Cee’s assertions just because Adrian seems so amazing. Eventually, when he gains the ability to become invisible, that just enables him to finally enact the last few acts of cruelty that he hadn’t been able to do so far. Essentially, he shows that it was only the small amount of accountability that he had as a wealthy person that had been holding him back. 

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Not that it stopped him from stalking and attacking her with a witness. 

The story is also updated a bit by adding a significant aspect of gaslighting and emotionally abusing a significant other. The entire premise of the film is based around Adrian trying to find a way to control Cee after she finally left him, which gives the horror elements a more sinister and grounded aspect. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I automatically give bonus points to films that use horror as a way to address real-life issues.

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Reminder: The Babadook was amazing.

Elisabeth Moss’s performance carries most of the film and is even more impressive when you realize that she’s typically acting against nothing. She really conveys an abused woman who is unable to trust her reality because she’s been so manipulated by Adrian. Also, unlike most protagonists who refuse to believe what’s happening is real, she almost immediately guesses that Adrian has gone invisible, something that everyone else doubts (the way they doubted her abuse). 

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Such great work with her eyes.

The cinematography is the other key to this film. The camera often drifts to empty corners and open doors where nothing appears to be happening, which sets the tone of the film so effectively. Similarly, the sound editing and soundtrack are both excellent at giving the feeling of having another presence in the room and of that presence being malicious. Also, I appreciate that they updated how he became invisible to make it more scientifically accurate. 

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We don’t get the famous image, though. 

Overall, solid movie. Sad that the Covid-19 may have hurt people seeing it, but if you can afford it, this is actually a movie worth renting on demand. If not… wait a few months for Redbox.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Netflix Review – The Haunting of Hill House (Spoiler-free)

I wrote this two weeks ago, when it would have been timely, then kept bumping it. So… hopefully this still works for some of you.

SpoilerFree

In 1959, Shirley Jackson wrote what is still considered to be one of the best horror stories of all time, famous for the relatively little amount of actual horror in it. “Horror” is usually defined as involving an actual scare or the feeling of revulsion and fear that comes after experiencing it, like what happens after you see Cthulhu or a Naked Steve Bannon. Instead, most of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House was heavily reliant on feelings of dread and the emotional instability of the characters.

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Has Netflix adapted “The Lottery” yet? That might be interesting.

In 1963, this film was adapted into The Haunting by famed director Robert Wise (West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Editor of Citizen Kane, etc.). The title changed to differentiate it from House on Haunted Hill. It was a solid terror film which managed to spend most of the movie making the characters, and the audience, uncertain if anything happening was supernatural or if it was all in the mind of the main character. It’s still regarded as a high point of cinema and is great upon rewatching. It’s not everyone’s favorite, mostly because it DOES rely heavily on dread rather than actual scares, but I personally love it.

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Did I mention the director was amazing at dramatic shots?

In 1999, Jan de Bont, fresh off of Speed 2, remade the movie and it was so bad that Catherine Zeta-Jones wearing nearly nothing couldn’t help it. Granted, I was 12 when it came out, so I didn’t have that opinion at the time, but I have seen it since and, wow, it really was not well thought-out. Roger Ebert thought the production design was good, which… okay, I guess is true, but that’s not what I look for in a movie. However, it did work as a great basis for parody in Scary Movie 2.

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Not even those… I mean She… could save this movie.

Well, this year Netflix decided to adapt it into a 10 episode TV series, the first one to be titled The Haunting of Hill House. While it had to change almost everything from all of the previous incarnations in order to fill the time, it captures the spirit of the book very well, despite being its own animal.

SUMMARY (Spoiler free)

Twenty-six years ago, the Crain family moved into Hill House. During their relatively short stay there, a large number of incidents involving the supernatural occurred, scaring and scarring every member of the family, before they were forced to flee after a particularly horrible event. Now, all of the family members are massively dysfunctional from the event and rarely communicate. However, after another family tragedy, they are all forced to confront the fact that none of them have ever fully left the house, resulting in them returning to resolve things.

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Also, this house is haunted, if it’s real. If not, the computer that generated it is haunted.

END SUMMARY

If you’re a fan of horror, you need to watch this show. It’s one of the best collections of horror images you can get in 10 episodes. The designs of the ghosts are fantastic, but one of the best parts is that they’re so well hidden that you can miss them throughout entire scenes until the end, but they’ve been there the entire time.

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There’s a hidden ghost in this image. Try to find it.

The show is structured non-chronologically with many episodes containing events from both the past and present timelines running together, but this later becomes important to the story because some of the events don’t happen exactly chronologically either in the traditional sense. It ties the traumas of the past more directly with the issues that the Crains have in the present.

What’s really impressive about this show is that it doesn’t have any resemblance to the book whatsoever. The book and the original movie both contain a lot of hints that much of what’s going on is just in the head of the characters and that they’re letting their fears get the better of them. This show demonstrates ghosts about 10 minutes in and shows over a dozen of them. In that sense, it’s almost closer to *shudder* the 1999 reboot, but fortunately, it does everything right which that movie did wrong, while also doing more than the original film.

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The TV series, for example, doesn’t have a terrible, giant CGI ghost.

Earlier I brought up how the book mostly focused on terror and dread over horror and revulsion. This show actually manages to do both at the same time, because we’re following two different timelines. We see the horror of the characters reacting to the past events and in flashbacks we see the terror building up to these events, but we also get the horror coming from present events that scare the characters, while also building up the terror of the inevitable return to the house that both the audience and the characters know is coming.

The family dynamics also really sell the show. All of the characters are dysfunctional and resentful towards each other, but each one also has some other defining element, whether it be a connection to ghosts, psychic abilities, or just being high as hell all the time. Each of these distinctions adds to the level of resentment and conflict between the characters, because they literally have something that the other parties can’t understand.

Overall, I can’t talk too much about the show without spoiling it, which has made this difficult, but it’s really a solid show. If you like horror, you’ll like this. If you don’t… you’ll probably hate it for making you spill your lukewarm broth that you have for every meal.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.