NOTE: This article will contain spoilers for ‘The Invisible Man.’ Obviously. Read at your own risk.
The Invisible Man, from Universal, Blumhouse, and director Leigh Whannell, just finished its second weekend at the box office this past weekend, earning $15.1 million domestically and holding remarkably well for a horror movie on a supposedly Corona Virus-dampened weekend. At this stage of the release, most of the talk around The Invisible Man (including mine) has rightfully been about Leigh Whannell and Blumhouse, and how they took a once-cursed property and turned it into a box office hit ($98 million worldwide on a $7 million budget so far) not to mention a pretty damn solid movie (with an inspired performance by Elisabeth Moss).
I agree with all that talk, but now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s time for some Monday morning quarterbacking. That’s right, here’s my idea for how The Invisible Man could’ve been just a little better.
First, some background. Like the original H.G. Wells Invisible Man, this invisible man is a bad guy. Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, who we barely see) is a wealthy optics engineer who is stalking his ex, Cecilia, played by Elisabeth Moss, who had to flee his compound in the middle of the night (after she drugged him) and hole up at a safe house to keep him from finding her. Cecilia eventually comes to suspect, correctly, that Adrian has invented some kind of invisibility suit and is using it to mess with her.
What follows is essentially the ultimate gaslighting thriller — Cecilia’s ex using his invisibility suit to alienate her from friends and family, look incompetent at work, and generally make the whole world believe that she’s mentally unstable. Whannell takes what on its face is a sort of goofy premise and makes it real, so real that it’s disturbing, to the point that it might not be escapist enough for some horror enthusiasts, who use undead slashers and evil dolls as a nice diversion from more realistic worries.
One big question throughout is why this fabulously wealthy guy is so hung up on this one particular, fairly normal-seeming woman, to the point that he’ll essentially fake his own death solely to make her miserable. A well-written movie anticipates questions like these and addresses them, and almost as soon as I had the thought, The Invisible Man offered up its answer: turns out Mosso is pregnant with his child. Adrian is trying to pressure Cecilia into giving him the child, using his brother, Tom Griffin, a lawyer, as his not-officially-dead proxy. Cecilia didn’t know she was pregnant because Adrian had secretly swapped out her birth control pills.
As the film speeds to a climax, Adrian uses invisibility to frame Cecilia (I’ll never be able to hear the name Cecilia and not think of American Psycho), and Cecilia eventually tricks Adrian (who the public believes had actually been held hostage in a secret room of his own house by his brother, the “real” mastermind) into a reconciliation dinner. Ostensibly she’s there to weasel a confession out of him, secretly keeping a recording device in her purse and bringing along her cop ally/roommate (James, played by Aldis Hodge) to listen along. Instead, she sneaks off, dons the invisibility suit, and cuts Adrian’s throat, looking for all his security cameras (and, by extension, the world) like a suicide.
It’s a nice little twist with obvious narrative symmetry — the gaslighter becomes the gaslit! It offers just enough catharsis to allow us to suspend the disbelief necessary to believe that this relatively slightly built woman would be strong enough to make a man who seemed to have super strength in previous scenes cut his own throat in an older brother-esque “why you cuttin’ yourself?” maneuver. Look, it was a decent ending.
But I would’ve liked to see The Invisible Man go one further. What about the unborn baby that was still in Cecilia’s belly? Does she really want to go to term with this spawn of such a screwed up family? I’ll put it bluntly: the movie should’ve ended with her aborting the baby. Not necessarily graphically, maybe just a tasteful shot of Cecilia walking into the clinic. Sure, sure, maybe Cecilia is above that kind of spite. Maybe she doesn’t believe in some idea of “cursed genes” — nurture over nature, and whatnot. And maybe-probably we shouldn’t advocate abortion to get back at an ex.
That being said, I think we can agree that this was an extraordinary situation. Cecilia was an abuse victim, and Adrian swapped out her birth control to get her pregnant against her will — an non-consensual pregnancy. Her terminating said pregnancy would’ve been her final act of reasserting control over her body. It’s also provocative — we love to watch movie characters do the things that we only dream about, don’t deny it — and it allows for one final nugget of ambiguity.
One of the sub-themes of The Invisible Man as a concept is that power corrupts, and that having a superpower like invisibility would naturally corrupt anyone who wields it (it was the main theme of Hollow Man, which was sort of a mess, but did ask “what would you do if you didn’t have to look at yourself in the mirror every morning?”). In her final act, we could’ve been left to debate whether this abortion was Cecilia’s ultimate act of reasserting control, or if it was the first red flag of her having been corrupted by this extraordinary superpower. It’s nice to leave the audience with something to argue about on their way out of the theater, isn’t it? I don’t know, it sounds pretty cool to me.