Tom Cruise’s The Mummy tanked, and Universal’s would-be Dark Universe collapsed. That meant no Russell Crowe Dr. Jekyll movie, no Javier Bardem Frankenstein, and no Johnny Depp Invisible Man. Earlier this year, Universal pivoted with their classic monster franchise and handed it to Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions, AKA the studio built on low-budget horror movie success. And now the first of the Blumhouse monster movies is here, with Elisabeth Moss starring in The Invisible Man. For a minute, we thought she might be playing a gender-switched invisible person, because she said in an interview, “… I think it's an incredible story that maybe needs to be retold, but maybe with a woman.” We now have a trailer for The Invisible Man, and no, Elisabeth Moss is not playing the invisible person. It’s still a dude—The Haunting of Hill House’s Oliver Jackson-Cohen, to be precise. Moss is, however, playing a victim of domestic abuse and stalking. That’s right, the Invisible Man is now a gaslighting monster.
This is a BRILLIANT update of the story. The Invisible Man comes from Leigh Whannell, director of Upgrade—which I don’t like particularly well, but a lot of genre nerds went nuts for it—and Insidious: Chapter 3. Whannell is also the guy who wrote Saw, Dead Silence, and Insidious. His horror bona fides are legit, and now he has come up with a treatment that reimagines a classic horror monster as a figure of our moment, an abusive man who tortures his partner, gaslighting her and stalking her. Instead of the invisible man’s girlfriend being a sympathetic love interest, she is now the protagonist, it is HER story, not his.
This shift in perspective works on a purely narrative level, but it also turns The Invisible Man into a metaphor for domestic violence itself. Domestic violence so often happens in plain sight – after all, society just turns a blind eye out of a bizarre sense of politesse and what happens in the home is personal and private and neighbors shouldn’t meddle. Whannell’s reimagining makes that willful blindness literal, which only highlights how isolated abuse survivors can be by their abusers. We can never know what Johnny Depp was going to do, but I bet it would have involved a lot of makeup and/or prosthetics, and definitely a funny hat. I think we can all agree this is a much better idea.