There was a day in court that I realized my attorney had never believed me. My alleged stalker claimed to be attending USC and had requested through his attorney my schedule of classes so that he could abide by the terms of our “mutual” restraining orders. My attorney chided me for refusing. I went home, requested that USC send my attorney a letter stating the facts: My ex had never applied to USC and thus, was not attending classes there. My attorney, a woman, had never believed those agonizing moments where I detailed the curious frequency of vandalism on my van and domestic violence for which there had been one arrest.
The vandalism on my vehicle continued for several years, commemorating my birthdays and past anniversaries. Thousands of dollars were spent on repairing the flat tires, the scratches and dents. I never saw my stalker. He was like the invisible man and my PTSD came across as hysteria. My alleged stalker was, after all, a good guy with a government job. I was not, however, totally alone. I had three dogs.
“The Invisible Man” 2020 has adjusted some problematic elements of the H.G. Wells story. In the original novel, a former medical student named Griffin becomes invisible using experimental chemicals and decides to start a “reign of terror,” but he is betrayed first by his assistant, Thomas Marvel, and then by a former colleague, Dr. Kemp. He is beaten to death by a mob.
Scientifically, an invisible man would be blind because he wouldn’t have a lens nor a place for the image to be reflected upon. Writer-director Leigh Whannell leaps over this problem by making the nature of invisibility more mechanical. A brilliant and very rich scientist, Adrian Griffith (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), has invented a black suit with many small individual cameras. His invisibility is a modern-day cloak of invisibility. We don’t really know much about him because Whannell’s script focuses on his wife: Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss).
The film begins on the day of her escape from the cold fortress that is their secluded home. There is not a single sign of a slouching comfortable life. There is order, symmetry and open clean space. Cecilia has drugged her husband, using diazapam. That’s our first red flag: Diazapam (also known as Valium) is prescribed for anxiety disorders (as well as alcoholism and muscle spasms). One of its known side effects is drowsiness.
Cecilia slides out cautiously from her side of the double bed. She turns off all the security cameras except the one on the master bedroom. Turning the feed on to her cellphone, she then finishes her escape plan–during which we see Adrian’s lab which has a variety of bulky body suits in display cases and one empty display case. She says good by to their Doberman, Zeus. Unfortunately, her husband wakes up and pursues her. When he catches up, she already in the car, pleading with her sister, Alice (Harriet Dyer), to step on the gas. Adrian is already upon them, breaking the glass of the passenger side window and grabbing on to Cecilia. Alice and Cecilia drive off, but Cecilia leaves behind the prescription container of diazepam.
Since Adrian knows where her sister lives, Cecilia takes refuge at the home of a childhood friend, Detective James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid). Cecilia is too frightened to leave the house and feels betrayed when her sister Alice arrives. But Alice has news: Adrian has committed suicide.
Cecilia’s brother-in-law, Tom (Michael Dorman), a lawyer, reads Adrians will. Cecilia is rich, but she can only have money from her trust fund if she is considered sane and not convicted of a serious crime. Tom is, according to Cecilia, “the jellyfish version of him (Adrian)–everything except the spine.” Yet he claims that he too was manipulated by Adrian. “I loved my brother and I thought he loved me, too” but “Tom controlled me.”
With the money, Cecilia celebrates, hoping to give back to James by providing for his daughter. Setting up the account reveals somethings about Cecilia. She continues to have a feeling of being watched, and we see a few creepy things. A knife moves off the counter. Something turns up the flame on a skillet burning up breakfast. When Cecilia walks outside, her visible breath is joined by another small cloud emanating from a mouth we can’t see.
Our Invisible Man isn’t stupid. He’s into mind games and hits Sydney. Sydney and James think Cecilia did it. Soon enough there’s evidence someone is there. She calls Adrian’s phone and realizes it is ringing in the attic. She goes there and finds things, but also (you’ve seen this in the trailer) pours liquid on him and clearly see there is someone in a suit.
The Invisible Man isn’t satisfied with just gaslighting Cecilia. Like in the original novel, the Invisible Man resorts to murder, setting Cecilia up to seem guilty. No one initially believes Cecilia, and she complains, “This is what he does; he makes me look like the crazy one.”
That statement struck me as the truth about the best and cleverest stalkers. Moss is convincing as a woman finding her strength after being beaten down by fists and mind games. Whannel prevents us from sympathizing with Adrian because we see so little of him and only really “know” about him from accounts given by Tom and Cecilia. The script makes it clear that he is not a good, caring husband, but by the ending, you’re not sure if he deserves any sympathy.
My escape wasn’t from a citadel like the house nor as dramatic as what’s presented here. I was betrayed by some frenemies and my family didn’t rise to help me. You might find this movie empowering, enough to take a step away or plunge into the unknown of life away from the suffocating attention of a lover. I didn’t get the closure of revenge like Cecilia, but in real life, that’s unnecessary.
“The Invisible Man” 2020 is about surviving and revenge and how, in between those two things, law enforcement can fail the victims of stalkers and domestic abuse.