Fear the Invisible Man (2023) Review
First things first, Fear the Invisible Man is not a sequel to the 2020 version of The Invisible Man although I’m sure the film’s makers won’t mind if you think so. Instead, it’s an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel that, unlike most adaptations of his work, keeps the book’s Victorian setting.
Griffin (Mike Beckingham, Redwood, Subconscious) is in a race against time to finish his experiments. The reason, his landlord and a bailiff are pounding on the door, ready to evict him. Injecting himself with it moments before they kick in the door, his flesh and bone vanish and he escapes, though not before causing an explosion that kills them and destroys his lab.
Elsewhere Adeline (Mhairi Calvey, The Summoner, 3 Lives) is disbelievingly reading about a series of crimes supposedly caused by an invisible man. She has other things to worry about though, since her husband’s death she struggled to keep the bills paid and avoid selling the manor.
So you can imagine her surprise when Griffin, a former classmate of hers, turns up injured and hiding in her house. He needs her help not only with his wounds but in retrieving his journals from Marvel (Grahame Fox, Judas Ghost, The Convent) a homeless man he forced to help him and who promptly took his notes and money and pulled a disappearing act of his own.
Director Paul Dudbridge (The Christmas Storybook, Horizon) and writer Philip Daay (White Sky, Captors) maintain a loose sense of fidelity to Wells’ novel, incorporating several of the characters and incidents while making some substantial changes as well. Most notably Fear the Invisible Man replaces the book’s male Kemp with Adeline Kemp in order to play off of a prior romance and a potential triangle involving Inspector Adye (Wayne Gordon, 400 Bullets, Miss Willoughby and the Haunted Bookshop) who both suspects and has feelings for Adeline. It also allows the financial troubles caused by her husband’s death to become the reason for her to help him with his schemes, at least until she realizes how badly his mental state has decayed.
Since she doesn’t fully realize that until the last twenty or so minutes, the resulting film works better as a thriller with a focus on the threat hanging over Adeline and those around her rather than concentrating on Griffin’s killings. The script does a good job of keeping the viewer’s interest as it leads up to the film’s actual horror and the final confrontation but it’s too restrained to realize the material’s full potential.
From a technical perspective, it’s obvious that Fear the Invisible Man was made on a tight budget but not as poverty stricken as Steve Lawson’s recent string of Victorian horror films such as Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing. There are plenty of locations including exteriors of the village and the surrounding countryside including Adeline’s estate. Unfortunately, a couple of attempts at creating a CGI London cityscape are less successful than the filmmaker’s efforts to find suitable locations to shoot in and resemble a decently budgeted piece of animation. I almost expected to see Batman on one of the rooftops.
Fear the Invisible Man mostly limits its other effects to tried and true ones such as footprints in the snow, clothes seeming to walk around on their own, etc. They’re well enough done but the one ambitious scene of horror, Griffin’s body vanishing layer by layer, suffers from subpar CGI, again looking more like a well done cartoon than actual flesh and blood.
Mhairi Calvey gives a solid performance despite frequently having to play to someone who isn’t there. Beckingham in turn delivers a good turn as a voice actor, having to be convincing without his character being seen. Gordon rounds out the leads with a convincing performance as the conflicted policeman. Prolific character actor David Hayman (Raven’s Hollow, Bull) makes a brief appearance as a local who finds out it’s not a good idea to be on Adeline’s bad side.
While it falls short of what it could have been, Fear the Invisible Man is still watchable if you’re in the right mood. It’s never boring, but don’t expect it to be too exciting or groundbreaking either.