– Hi, everybody, Katie
Rife here from the AV Club and this week on Film Club I’m joined by a special guest! Hi, Ignatiy! – Hi, Katie! – Ignatiy Vishnevetsky will be joining me for a discussion of
Universal’s latest incarnation of The Invisible Man,
starring Elisabeth Moss and directed by Leigh Whannell. – Welcome to Film Club. (film reel noises) (film noir-esque music) – So, Ignatiy, this is Universal’s latest incarnation of the Invisible Man. It’s with Blumhouse and it’s sort of in the Blumhouse tradition,
something that’s been very successful for them
is taking established horror tropes and properties and doing versions of them for
relatively small budgets, and seeing just great return. Blumhouse, to its credit, is pretty open in creative control for its directors, and in this case, that is Leigh Whannell. And the hook in this
one is something that, I thought they actually played the scene very well, they make the Invisible Man the antagonist of the movie, in this film, he’s a Silicon-Valley
billionaire who is also a diabolical, abusive psychopath, and the main character, the protagonist, is actually his partner,
this abused woman, who escapes from him in
the beginning of the film and I thought it was sort
of an interesting take on the well-worn thriller
subgenre of a woman losing her mind, well,
everyone thinks she’s losing her mind, but
really the threat is real but no one believes her
that the threat is real. I thought it was very
interesting, ’cause usually, those films take place in small spaces, they’re sort of chamber
pieces, and this one really expanded that into a larger sort of palette for that type of story. – But it does it by, I
think, making the movie basically a series of small spa– – That’s true!
– You know, it’s a series of different set pieces. – It’s a series of set
pieces, but set pieces nonetheless, yes. – And well-executed set
pieces, and nowadays, you know, you basically
can’t see a horror movie without watching some kind of metaphor for grief, family trauma,
or abusive relationships. – Yeah, trauma metaphors are very hot in horror right now. (laughs) – That’s what we really go for, you know, when we’re going to a horror movie, what we really wanna see is metaphors, that’s what we’re there for, we’re there for the metaphors. But this one, I think
handles it reasonably well. – I thought so too. – But I think really, it handles it well because of the style. You have this terrific
opening that sort of sets a really, really Gothic tone to this. – Absolutely. – You’ve got this wonderful opening title sequence with waves crashing on rocks and then you pan up to this kind of glass and metal and wood mansion that’s, I guess, our modern equivalent of a big Gothic house. – Well, and I found that kind of amusing, actually, because the
layout of it and the sort of like cliff side, northern California billionaire mansion,
and the setup of the lab inside the mansion, were pretty similar to the set design from
the first Iron Man film, and so they’re setting
up the invisible man as sort of the evil Iron Man, which was kind of fun. – [Ignatiy] As you know, you’ve got Elisabeth Moss plays the
main character, Celia– – [Katie] Cecilia, yeah. – [Ignatiy] –who, in the
beginning of the film, I think really kind of well-constructed, I think it’s a really
terrific opening sequence, where she escapes from his house, and then sometime later, learns that he’s supposedly killed himself, and then starts being menaced by some kind
of invisible presence. And there’s a part of this film where we’re kind of well ahead of her, we know that there’s something there, and I think there’s a really savvy use of basically a lot of empty space, right? A lot of what makes this movie interesting is negative space, it’s absences, it’s kind of like, we never
really see the abuse that she talks about, we open– – She can’t even talk about it. – Well, yeah, she can’t really, she can’t even talk about it, we kind of open at the moment of escape, and so the movie really stakes a lot of that backstory on Moss’ performance. – Absolutely. – [Ignatiy] And it
stakes a lot of, I think, some of its early creepiness
and its early scares not on kind of obvious things happening, or you know, something jumping out, but really on just shots
that are maybe framed a little bit too wide
or these kind of pans that linger just a little bit too long. – [Katie] Yeah, I thought the pans were really interesting, there are a lot of shots in the film where we’ll pan from Elisabeth Moss off
to the left or the right and then just look down
a long, dark hallway, perhaps with a sheeted
figure at the end of it or something like that,
and there’s a character in the film who, and she’s a teenage girl, she wants to be a fashion designer, so you have the mannequins,
sort of hovering menacingly in the
background, which I thought was really great, but
you make a great point about Elisabeth Moss’ performance. We were actually
discussing this last night after the screening, this
is a specialty of hers, characters who are on
the verge of a psychotic episode, but something I think that her performance really grounds the film in an emotional reality of trauma and abuse that makes the theme
work, in that it’s that feeling of when you have
experienced, you know, a traumatic event like
this, you never feel safe. And using the invisible man, the literally unseen threat, that could
be there at any time as sort of the background of the film, I think her performance underlines that in a way that makes it work. – And I think a lot of it comes back to the stuff that Leigh Whannell, who wrote and directed this,
better known for his work with James Wan–
– Yes, originally. – But he also made Upgrade, which I think is pretty fun. – [Katie] Yeah, oh, yeah, Upgrade, we promoted it pretty heavily on AV Club, because we were all big fans of it. Yeah, Whannell, he
started out, he wrote Saw for James Wan, and was a
screenwriter for a while and then, I think
Insidious 3 was his first directorial effort? And now he’s kinda
breaking out on his own, he still includes little nods to his work with Wan in the film, like
in everything he does. Like in this film, there’s at one point, there’s sort of a
background shot where you see graffiti of Jigsaw from the Saw films, but he’s doing his own thing now. – I’m guessing that some of our viewers, based on comments I’ve seen elsewhere, may feel that the trailer for this film gives far too much away
and that it implies that this is, you know,
kind of one of those movies where a character is constantly trying to convince everyone that something is real, and to a point that just strains credulity, you know, like someone would believe them by this point. And I think, actually, the film pulls it off really well. Because I think it has a lot to do with the structure, especially the fact that there’s a large chunk of this film that’s actually set over
a very short span of time. Like, it doesn’t really let the thing go on for too long. – [Katie] The whole thing, even backstory that informs the story, it’s all about like a month, it all takes place over a very short period of time. – And there’s a middle
section that’s basically just set over a few hours, but I also like that it’s not just about this presence that’s menacing her, a big part of what the Invisible Man is doing is making it seem like she’s
doing particular things, you know, kind of making
it seem like either she’s doing things to
herself, or that she’s doing things to other people. – [Katie] He’s gaslighting her! – [Ignatiy] Yeah. Now, there are, I think,
some issues with pacing toward the end of the film. To me, you know, like
the middle section of it, which is kind of a
chamber set, like a long series of chamber set
pieces, works really well. You know, the opening works really well, there are parts of this film that are basically Elisabeth Moss and some kind of threat. Long stretches of film
without any dialogue, which is also kind of
unusual for a mainstream horror film, but the sound design in this is pretty terrific. – Yeah, the sound design is fantastic. There’s one part where
Moss, she’s convinced that, you know, her supposedly-dead ex is in the room, and just the sound design that he does with the
sheet, when she’s shaking a sheet is, just really good, like very scary stuff. (laughs) – Which is it, this is
scary, I was surprised to find that it’s very effectively scary, to the point where the person next to me let out a yelp. Which is interesting, because they’ve been making movies about the Invisible Man for almost ninety years,
and it’s taken this long to make one that’s really legitimately a horror movie. If you look at something like Hollow Man, which I think has a lot going for it. I mean, there’s some
things about Hollow Man that really don’t work, but Hollow Man sort of also establishes this idea of just the Invisible Man
as an abusive asshole. It also does something which this film doesn’t do, which is that, it really does a good job of queasily implicating the viewer in the Invisible
Man’s point of view, in the whole power fantasy of screwing with people and being a voyeur. Which this doesn’t, the– – This film is 100% on Cecilia’s side. They don’t give any
backstory to, his name’s Adrian, the Invisible
Man, they don’t give him any backstory, anything,
he’s just pure evil. One thing that I thought was interesting is like I said, Whannell is relatively new breaking out on his own, after enjoying this partnership with Wan for a long time, he’s definitely, I think, even just with the last two films he’s
done, he’s developing a distinctive visual style,
which I find satisfying. – [Ignatiy] Oh yeah, he loves symmetry. I mean, there’s so many symmetrical shots in this film, and he
actually uses the symmetry quite well when he kind of breaks it a little bit, you know, like the room will be framed symmetrically, and then something is gonna happen, you know, in the corner of it to the right. And he also, you mentioned this, but he has kind of a
distinctive special effect that he does, or a distinctive digital effect that he does, which is kind of the character moving or
falling back and kind of the whole frame appearing
to move with them. – Yeah, it’s something that he did a lot in Upgrade, and I, they
worked out some sort of way to do it practically,
where it’s sort of like a steady cam but it’s attached to the actor, and even with the, you know, the pans we were talking about, those are very robotic, his camera movements are very mechanical, which
is a very interesting counterpart to a story
that is very psychological and messy, you know, emotionally. There were a few things about it, I agree that I liked the sort of descent into madness part a lot, and in the second half, there were certain parts where it got a little bit, it played a little bit loose in ways that I was surprised by, you know, just little things, like. I don’t need a movie to be completely anchored in reality, but it’s so focused on forward momentum in the latter half that there were a few details that I felt got left by the side a little bit. – I mean, it’s not free of plot holes, and there are some characters
whose relationships seem incredibly vague to one another, and you know, I do ultimately feel like it doesn’t, the ending feels a little bit arbitrary, even though
something kind of big might happen in it, it
does feel arbitrary. I mean, for everything
that it is doing so well, formally, and for all of these missteps it’s not making, I think it ultimately succumbs to a lot of
problems with quote/unquote mainstream horror, which is that, it’s engaging some
irrational fear of ours. There’s someone I can’t see in my house, or someone that hurt me
is actually still alive, and then finding really
rational explanations for them, rational within
the context of horror, and then ultimately explaining
all of those things. I do like the fact that it’s not like, it plays for a very long time on this idea that it’s just all in her head, I mean, we know that
there’s something there before she does. – No, it’s 100% on her side, with her, she is right, everyone else is wrong. And I think that that’s where this film is most successful, is sort of as like an emotional experience, because there is a lot of tension to it
and a lot of atmosphere, and even when it does kind of stumble a little bit, I think the forward momentum is still there. All right everybody, that’s it for The Invisible Man. Thank you for joining us, Ignatiy, it’s always good to see you. – Well, thank you for having me, and if you’re watching this on YouTube, please like and subscribe to our channel. – Thanks everybody!