Review: ‘Fear the Invisible Man’ (2023)

H.G. Wells’ classic 1897 novel ‘The Invisible Man’ was famously adapted by James Whale and Universal Pictures for the 1933 film starring Claude Rains – a film that was fairly accurate to the source, and featuring a brilliant performance from Rains, as well as top notch effects for its time. Universal went on to do multiple sequels, and then in 2020 released an extremely loose adaptation from ‘Saw’ and ‘Insidious’ co-creator Leigh Whannell that only shared the title and antagonists’ surname in common with Wells’ story, and very little else.

Fear the invisible Man’, which is not produced by Universal Pictures, goes back to basics, and is easily the best and strongest takes on the original novel since the James Whale film.  Sure, Director Paul Dudbridge, and screenwriters Helena Gergelova, Monika Gergelova, and Philip Daay took some liberties and changed things up – but for good reason, as this creative team delivered something that remained close to the book but different enough to justify its existence. This isn’t to slam the 2020 film – which I did enjoy and wrote a positive review for – but the appeal for this particular film is that it feels more like a Universal Monster film than that film.

This version of the story is still set in 1987, but the narrative is restructured; the events that transpire throughout the book do happen chronologically, but the film starts at the novel’s half-way point in which Griffin seeks the help of his former colleague, Doctor Kemp, and the film expands upon the back-half of the original novel for its narrative. The Invisible Man’s reign of terror in the village of Iping serves as the backdrop, but similarly to the 2020 Universal film, the focus is shifted from Dr. Griffin’s perspective to that of someone else, keeping the titular character as the villain of the story.  Here, however, is one of the major changes to the story, as we learn that doctor Kemp had passed away, and we instead follow his widowed wife, Adeline Kemp (Mhairi Calvey). Griffin (Mike Beckingham) seeks her assistance after being wounded while attempting to retrieve his three journals from Thomas Marvel (Grahame Fox) – a character who has been left out of the majority of adaptations of the novel – and in exchange for her services, he offers to aid her in her fight against wealthy bureaucrats for programs to help those in poverty and/or suffering from mental illness. But as her toughest opponents end up dying, and Colonel Adye (Wayne Gordon) becomes suspicious of her involvement in the strange events that happen around the town of Port Burdock, Adeline soon learns that her late husband’s colleague and former friend isn’t as trustworthy as she assumed.

One of the things that I really appreciated about this movie is that they kept it as a period piece instead of trying to bring it to the modern day, and in a way, it feels like it follows the tradition of ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ (1992), ‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’ (1994), and ‘The Wolfman’ (2010) as an updated interpretation that sticks to the gothic roots of the original story. Here the production design, settings, and costumes look fantastic and really sell the classic visual aesthetic of its time period.

The visual effects are decent for a film of its budget, although there are two instances where they don’t look the greatest – but again, this is not a film with big studio backing, so I’m willing to be forgiving.

The acting is fine for the most part. No one really gives an outstanding performance, but none are so awful that they took away from my enjoyment of the film. I think Mhairi Calvey is the best of the bunch here, with Mike Beckingham, Grahame Fox, and Wayne Gordon giving serviceable performances. To be honest though, I think that Beckingham gave it his all as the titular villain, but it’s very difficult to live up to the legendary performance of Claude Rains. In all fairness, that comparison is more of a reflection on my expectations as a viewer and a fan, and it’s a “me problem” that I fully acknowledge.

Overall, if you’re a fan of the H.G Wells novel or the 1933 James Whale film, ‘Fear the Invisible Man’ should please. It is a notable adaptation that embraces the source material while finding an angle that makes it stand out from other film versions of the story, and as a life-long fan of the novel and the original film, it works for me.



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About Seth T. Miller 90 Articles
I am first and foremost a proud father of two daughters who may or may not be possessed by demonic entities/deadites -- time will tell on that one, but I am pretty confident that one of them translated the Necronomicon. I enjoy short walks to my movie collection, reading in goddamn piece and quiet, and watching the same movies and tv series over and over instead of discovering new stuff.