The invisible man has been a staple of the horror genre since H.G. Wells published his classic novel in 1897. Before that, it was the stuff of myth and legend. Recently however the character seems to have fallen out of favor. Perhaps due to overuse combined with the lampooning it got from Chevy Chase in John Carpenter’s Memoirs of an Invisible Man. However, The Unseen, which premiered at the 2016 Fantasia Festival has actually managed to find a new spin on the concept.
Years ago Bob Langmore, (Aden Young, I, Frankenstein) abandoned his wife (Camille Sullivan, The Man In The High Castle) and daughter Eva (Julia Sarah Stone) and isolated himself in a remote town in the frigid north. Now showing symptoms of a bizarre and possibly hereditary illness that is piece by piece rendering him invisible he must risk everything including revealing his condition when his troubled daughter goes missing. But when you make a deal with the Devil, there’s going to be hell to pay.
The film starts slowly, like a domestic drama with the troubled and rebellious daughter, worried mother and absent father. Indeed we’re nearly half an hour into the film before we see any symptoms of Bob’s condition. Then we see the hole in his gut. With bone and organs behind it, it’s a shocking sight. He isn’t gradually fading out, he’s going piece by piece as though the victim of a flesh-eating bacteria. But his skin is still there, you can just see through it. This allows for some truly impressive effects as his condition worsens.
The film’s focus isn’t on the effects as much as it is on relationships as Bob looks for his missing daughter. He tries to reconnect with her along with finding out the truth about his own missing father. That’s not to say the film is dull. There is plenty of action mixed into this as well. To make the trip he’s had to cut a deal with a very untrustworthy drug dealer. The reason for Eva’s disappearance is also fairly shocking and leads to some satisfying payback.
First-time feature director Geoff Redknap does an excellent job of balancing these elements to keep the film interesting. He never lets it turn into a Lifetime “disease of the week” drama or an empty action film. Working from his own script, he shows a sure hand at keeping things interesting and getting the most from his cast.
The fact that the script makes his condition seem believable is a sign of the talent involved. Unlike many effects artists, he’s worked on Deadpool and Cabin In The Woods among many others, turned directors he doesn’t make the film a slave to the effects. He manages to use them to support the story while not allowing them to become the story. There are a few missteps along the way. A couple of times when characters do stupid things for no other reason than to advance the plot. But these are rare, it is a remarkably solid debut film.
The Unseen is not what you would expect an invisible man movie to be. But it is a remarkably captivating and entertaining one. The Unseen was released in Canada last year by Raven Banner. It will see US release February 26th from Monarch Home Entertainment