‘The Invisible Man’ Could Be the Winter Blockbuster We Won’t See Coming

Nowadays, the Fast and Furious series is the closest thing the studio has to a sprawling, interconnected story. Yet, long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Universal created its own shared universe. From the 1920s to the 1950s, Universal was synonymous with monster movies.

Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, and others were all over movie screens. And these characters often crossed into each other’s films in interesting ways. With the upcoming release of The Invisible Man, Universal could try — yet again — to revive their classic monsters.

Elisabeth Moss at the Screen Actors Guild Awards
Elisabeth Moss at the Screen Actors Guild Awards | Rich Fury/Getty Images

A new version of ‘The Invisible Man’ is coming soon to theaters

Directed by Leigh Whannell, the new film stars Elisabeth Moss as Cecilia Kass, who escapes an abusive relationship with scientist Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). But when her ex dies in an apparent suicide, Cecilia finds herself tormented in an entirely different way. Believing Adrian is still pursuing her, Cecilia must prove he is still alive despite the fact that no one can see him.

To say The Invisible Man reinterprets the H.G. Wells is an understatement. The new film brings the central concept into a modern context. But more interestingly, it raises a variety of other questions. Themes like domestic abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and paranoia now come to the forefront like never before. And by making a woman the focus, it feels especially timely given recent social and political events.

Writer/director Leigh Whannell has a strong track record in horror

Moreover, Whannell’s involvement also bodes well for The Invisible Man. The actor/writer/director is probably still best known for writing and starring in 2004’s Saw. That film, of course, kicked off a long-running franchise, the first two sequels of which Whannell wrote himself.

Likewise, Whannell reteamed with Saw director James Wan on Insidious. Whannell has written and appeared in all four entries of that series, and 2015’s Insidious: Chapter 3 even served as his directorial debut. The Insidious franchise also brought Whannell to Blumhouse Pictures, the company behind The Invisible Man.

If Blumhouse sounds familiar to you horror fans out there, it definitely should. The production house is behind some of the most-talked-about horror franchises of the past decade, including Paranormal Activity, The Purge, and Happy Death Day. Blumhouse also famously gives filmmakers ample creative freedom in exchange for a small budget.

‘The Invisible Man’ could finally start Universal’s ‘Dark Universe’

This more economic approach to filmmaking has worked incredibly well for Blumhouse in the past. Without the burden of an excessive budget, films are able to turn a profit much more quickly. In particular, this less-is-more mentality is the perfect fit for horror.

Universal already tried to revive its classic monsters in the opposite fashion. 2014’s Dracula Untold took a more realistic look at the title character, but its $70 million production budget and tepid box office performance killed any hopes for more.

Then Universal tried again, spending $125 million on the critically derided The Mummy. Even with Tom Cruise, audiences passed on the proposed “Dark Universe.” An entire line-up of movies — including The Invisible Man starring Johnny Depp — vanished. And Universal went back to the drawing board.

Blumhouse’s The Invisible Man could be the fresh start the Universal monsters need. For one, the studio is taking these iconic characters one at a time and actually making them scary. Rather than shoehorning in a shared universe, it’s building one piece by piece. Will audiences see Whannell’s characters cross paths with the likes of Dracula and the Wolf Man? Possibly. But for right now, let’s hope audiences actually see The Invisible Man.

The Invisible Man hits theaters on Feb. 28, 2020.