Category Archives: Feminism

Review: The Invisible Man (2020)

Director(s)Leigh Whannell
Principal CastElisabeth Moss as Cecilia
Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Adrian
Aldis Hodge as Detective James
Harriet Dyer as Emily
Storm Reid as Sydney
Release Date2020
Language(s)English
Running Time 124 minutes

Leigh Whannell has never made a movie I haven’t enjoyed either as a screenwriter or director. The Insidious series is one of my favorite horror franchises and wouldn’t have been possible without him. 2018’s Upgrade made me appreciate how well he could move behind the camera and I was hyped up to see what he was going to do next. Then I saw the trailers for his latest feature, a remake of the iconic The Invisible Man. I’ll be honest when I say that I didn’t have faith the movie would be good. I thought the trailer spoiled too much and I thought the movie would be schlocky or boring as a result. If it wasn’t for my love of Whannell’s past works I would’ve given this a sit-out till reviews came out, like I did for Fantasy Island . Thankfully, I ended up seeing this opening night and left the theater blown away. Whanell has taken the core components of H.G Well’s beloved story and fitted them into a #MeToo movie that’s topical and nuanced without being patronizing.

The story follows Cecilia, an abused women who decides enough is enough and attempts to escape from her controlling and manipulative husband. Despite knowing that she’d escape based off the trailers , I still felt my knuckles clench during the opening sequence. It is pin drop silent as Emily Moss tip toes around the mansion that serves as her castle. You can feel her tension in every action, in every moment, in every hurried look around her settings to make sure that her husband isn’t near. Thankfully for the audience, it’s only an appetizer for what’s to come. After she manages to get out of the situation, she receives the news that her husband has apparently died from suicide and has left her a huge sum in his will. Soon after this, she settles into an apparently peaceful life, that is, until she realizes that her husband may not be dead and instead might be stalking her as an invisible man.

Whannell gets what makes invisibility scary and manages to push the concept in new, bold ways. There are moments where the camera pans from a character to a supposedly empty area. It lingers there almost hinting that the invisible assailant is in the same space. It’s almost like Whannell is taunting you to pick out where the man is. Sometimes there’s a discernible sign something is there. Other times there’s nothing. I felt myself becoming more paranoid and off kilter as I desperately tried to find him in the frame. It’s brilliant move that places you in Cecilia’s frame of mind. Once she realizes she’s being stalked, no space is a safe space. Any space could house “him” in it and she constantly has to be on high alert at all times. The ingenuity of panning to different kids of empty settings is we’re never made aware if the titular antagonist is actually there. We, the audience and Cecilia, might just be staring at nothing, scaring ourselves at the idea of what’s there. It creates an immersive atmosphere that should pull anyone in , regardless of gender or sex.

What gives the movie it’s unique subtext is also one of the main differences between it and the 1933 original- the focus on the perspective of the victim and not the assailant. We follow Cecilia the whole movie, so the fear of being pursued by an invisible assailant feels more personal as opposed to detached. There’s a stronger sense of culpability which makes us even more sympathetic of the main character’s plight. That’s why it feels so frustrating to see her rebuffed at every opportunity. Of course it would sound crazy to talk about how you’re being stalked by your invisible dead husband. Even when the malevolent entity is literally in the room invading her space and psyche, no one believes her. It’s a poignant #MeToo call , as Cecilia desperately tries to get anyone to believe her abuse and help her. The fear of losing ones mind from constant gaslighting compliments and accentuates the fear of invisibility. It gives the movie layers of textured horror.

At the heart of all of this is Elisabeth Moss’s performance as Cecilia. Holy shit. Moss is asked to do so much this movie and delivers on all fronts. Early on when she’s just escaping, she nails the dread and anxiety of leaving her abuser. The uncertainty of her precautions working shows in her face and her constant glances. When she thinks her husband is dead you can see her body language change. Her face brightens and you can feel the hope set in, which is why when she realizes that he may not be as dead as everyone says, it hurts. You can see the confidence tear as it’s replaced by anxiety and paranoia again. The fatigue, the weariness, the feeling of being absolutely done; it’s all there. There are huge scenes where she’s literally talking to nothing visible in the room, but you feel like someone else is there, because maybe there is. When she starts to fight back, you can feel the fight or flight in her desperation and/or her tenacity. She’s the emotional core of the movie and without such an amazing performance, the story would fail to be as effective of compelling.

There are a few story issues that threaten the underlying logic of the movie, but I didn’t notice them in the moment. Some of them feel like more serious realism issues . Others are more nitpicky. However, none of them detracted from my enjoyment or from the story in a meaningful way. If you’re someone who can’t turn the “but how could they even” part of your brain off, you might get frustrated with some of thriller sequences in the second act. Thankfully, I was able to ignore that inner voice and just let myself be transported into Whannell’s world.

Report Card

TLDRThe Invisible Man knocks it out of the park. It captures the essential ideas of the original movie, but manages to make them more topical for our day and age. The story of an abused wife being stalked by her supposedly dead, abusive husband manages to surprise more than the trailers would let on. Whannell manages to deliver some well earned scares alongside an incredibly relevant message in the #MeToo era.
Rating9.5/10
GradeA+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

 

Review: The Love Witch

Director(s)Anna Biller
Principal CastSamantha Robinson as Elaine Parks
Laura Waddell as Trish
Jared Sanford as Gahan
Gian Keys as Griff
Release Date 2016
Language(s)English
Running Time120 minutes

In honor of Valentine’s day, I present my review of The Love Witch, a nuanced feminist story about love, gender, agency, desire, and their infinite intersections. The movie follows Elaine, a witch who moves to California in the hopes of finding someone to love. Once there, she uses magic and rituals to aid in her goal, but is met with comedic and tragic consequences.

I’m someone who loves feminism in media (when it’s done well) and Biller’s story masterfully navigates themes within the larger genre. At first it can feel like there are too many heavy-handed comments and not-so-subtle hints about what characters are thinking. However, by the end of the movie it’s obvious that a lot of what was said was done in an effort to control narrative sources of ambiguity and make discussion more interesting/accessible. If more people are on the same page about initial events and character motivations, then the subsequent discussion can go more in depth on the what actually matters- the themes.

The Love Witch analyzes the way desire and love are positioned by society and in relation to sex/gender. Elaine accepts her position as eye-candy and utilizes the adoration and affection she receives to try and find love, a reciprocal exchange in her mind. She gives men exactly what they think they want, in the hopes that it’ll get them to be what she needs them to, but is always met with some kind of issue. The men get too emotional and she can’t relate, or they’re touchy and she’s uncomfortable. Watching her navigate the matrix of power relations is interesting because of how she is forced to don her sexuality and make use of it simultaneously. She is shamed and praised and the movie presents her choice as a path, not the only option. The way she approaches love is juxtaposed with other views, culminating in a discussion that will leave you thinking about what love really is.

The movie never feels preachy because it excels in developing situations in multifaceted ways. There are women and men who do “good” and “bad” things. It’s all couched in your perspective of what proper behavior looks like. Thankfully, the movie does a good job in making you question those interpretations, and going through that journey ends up revealing a lot about your own biases. The real horror is discovering these aspects of ourselves/society and thinking about how deep they run in constructing the bounds of what is and isn’t permissible behavior.

I love how the movie integrates witches into the world, in an unique and wholly original package. Witchcraft exists as a kind of protected religion in this world. Witches go about everyday life wearing their witch garb, selling and buying witchcraft related products at stores, holding/attending witchcraft lessons/rituals, etc. It’s a realistic take that gives the movie its own personality while keeping the more supernatural elements grounded. The story’s take on magic,love magic in particular, allows for imaginative and hypnotic horror sequences and also serves to expand the layers of the themes. Costume and set design is pristine and ties everything together, radiating color and personality. Elaine’s house for example, is filled with beautiful art work and colors that leap out at you so there’s always something to look at when she’s working in there. This can be said for all the different environments the movie navigates, each bursting with personality and a bright eye-catching color palette. I found myself drawn into each scene, completely immersed by the beauty of what I was seeing.

Report Card

TLDRThe Love Witch is a deep dive into the way we approach love and the methods by which society and gender determine the same. Despite feeling a bit heavy-handed with its dialogue, the movie isn’t preachy and manages to be visually stunning and thematically poignant. The story of a love-struck witch, desperate for a Prince Charming, willing to make use of her sexuality and prowess with spells to charm men is funny, visually intoxicating, scary, and innovative in how it flips the traditional final girl horror cliche. Highly recommend to fans of feminist media or anyone who wants a horror movie about love.
Rating9.7/10
Grade A+