Rounding out the quartet of Universal’s Invisible Man movies throughout the 1940s, The Invisible Man’s Revenge was a return to ‘form’-ula…in a good way. Also returning to the series was Jon Hall, but he would not be reprising the role of Frank Griffin Jr. Instead he would be playing Frank’s twin brother Robert Griffin, a man who escapes from a mental institution that he was incarcerated in after killing two orderlies. Talk about polar opposites and proof of the flexibility to Hall’s work as an actor, although oddly Robert has no knowledge of the invisibility formula of his brother or grandfather for that matter.
Once he is free, Robert seeks vengeance on the Herrick family who found their fortune from diamond fields that he helped to discover. The Herrick family propose a share in the estate as a means to appease Robert, but he pushes things further, demanding to marry their daughter, Julie. Their response? Drug him and get him out of their way. This only angers Robert further and he plots his revenge. In steps Dr. Peter Drury (John Carradine) who happens to be working on the formula for invisibility and with it, Robert’s key to claiming what he believes is owed to him.
The plotline is a little more convoluted than previous instalments and while it does some time before the cloak and dagger of invisibility lays the scene, the direction and delivery are more impactful due to the care and dedication devoted to character development. Robert Griffin’s descent into madness and retribution is amplified by the back story delivered and Jon Hall’s depiction. Likewise the supporting cast are on point, notably from Carradine and Gale Sondergaard as a cold-hearted Lady Irene Herrick. Furthermore, the despair of Griffin’s fear of Brutus the dog, places a nice conclusion to the tale. We are what we fear and if we place emphasis on those fears it will ultimately be our ruin.
The Invisible Man’s Revenge would mark the final time that the tale would be told with a dark edge with the next appearance coming in the Abbott and Costello movies. It would be nearly 75 years before Universal would look into the black heart of the Griffin family with The Invisible Man starring Elizabeth Moss.
Before Leigh Whannel and the Blumhouse team reinvented and reinvigorated the Invisible Man franchise for the modern generation with their 2020 adaptation, I would have argued that no one could have stepped into Claude Rains shoes as the doomed scientist, Dr. Jack Griffin. In Fact he would reprise the role once more with American comedians Bud Abbot and Lou Costello in Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man further associating himself with the iconic character. Rains became synonymous with the Universal horror franchise with his dignified gentlemanly manner which also saw him in The Wolf Man movie and The Phantom of the Opera. HG Wells’ novel would inspire 7 feature films under the Universal umbrella, none could match the original film however, but something must have stirred the creative flow to keep the infamous production company revisiting the story.
There would be a seven year gap between the original 1933 release and a sequel, so perhaps the time lapse was too big a call for it to truly lift off from its predecessor but for me The Invisible Man Returns never quite lands the mark. This view may have raised eyebrows from some, particularly as the film boasts the magnificent Vincent Price as its lead, whose physical presence is only seen for about a minute of screen time. The rest of the movie, the renaissance man is either wrapped up in bandages or providing his sultry tones to the piece. As much as Price adds much needed gravitas to the narrative, it never encapsulates the viewer beyond the tale of redemption. As such there is no real audience connection to the characters and their one-dimensional storyline, that essentially sees Price as Geoffrey Radcliffe, a man accused of murder and sentenced to death for a crime that he didn’t commit. In steps Dr Jack Griffin’s brother, Frank, with the invisible formula and gives it to Radcliffe so that he can escape and prove his innocence. Quite why Frank does this is neither mentioned, nor followed up again. The rest of the movie plays out as a crime thriller, where Radcliffe tries to uncover who the real murderer was.
Not a patch on the original, which personally is because it steers away from the science and the side effects that ensue from substance abuse. It’s only saving grace is the presence of Vincent Price, even if it is merely in voice alone.
The Invisible Man brought the fear of the unknown to the forefront.
Playing harmoniously with the horror classic first seen on the big screen back in 1933, The Invisible Man involves many untapped elements of what scares everyone. Forget “there is someone walking behind you”, or that sound that suggests someone is next to you, what if they were right in front of you. It’s haunting enough to make you watch your every step but to couple that with an obsessed, abusive ex who is known for his manipulative gaslighting and violent rage, this quickly becomes a great narrative, if only the trailer didn’t reveal everything! AGAIN! I saw an awful cut of the new James Bond movie on television one night, and it looked bland and awful but then saw another trailer for it in the cinema and it looked like it has a great, engaging story. I was already halfway through the plot in my head, waiting for the movie to catch up, and it did just over halfway through the film.
Fantastic performances by the cast who all lead a stoic role in aid to the plot. I like the way films aren’t shying away from the kind of traumatic scares like in the recent Doctor Sleep and in this film, which were obviously showing off what the visual effects department could pull off.
I feel like this is one that can be enjoyed by all, there is an ambiguity that lends to the possibility of multiple outlooks regarding events and perspective, coupled with the intriguing use of technology and optics.
It was great to see the NSW funding in the credits
It’s a great movie to watch on a first date! Just try and avoid the trailer before you see it but yeah definitely one for date night.
100 years ago the Roaring Twenties came into effect with a social and economic boom that pushed the boundaries of experimentation and exploration dubbing it the crazy years.
Cinema has evolved greatly during this time and spawned Robert Miene’s silent horror in German Expressionism, which is still considered a classic among some critics.
While the tides have shifted and the boundaries of what is classified as horror has twisted through the years, moving numerous debates and discussions along the way, we come to a time when originality can be hard to come by, or perhaps the audience has become too critical and our perceptions have changed.
Can the films of today cause a deeper development in the genre that we’ve come to love and like the films that were born a century ago stir the insanity again and break new ground in the process?
Let’s look at what 2020 has in store and see if indeed it will deliver.
This film has led some early reports to compare it to Alien but in the ocean deep instead of the far reaches of space. It does boast Kristen Stewart in the cast who may divide audiences and has been a bit hit and miss of late in her film choices but she is supported in this instance by Vincent Cassel, who is known for choosing experimental films. Does this then mean that this team of underwater researchers will uncover not only a few beasties but also break new ground in the process?
Prediction: Neither sink or swim. A drifter that will entertain some but not cast anything new into the cinematic landscape.
Jan 24 – The Turning
Based on Henry James novel, The Turn of the Screw and produced by Steven Spielberg, it stars Mackenzie Davis (Terminator: Dark Fate) and Finn “Can my hair grow any longer?” Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and bears close scrutiny as director Mike Flanagan (Doctor Sleep) is set to release an interpretation of the novel in Netflix series, The Haunting of Bly Manor, his follow up to the successful The Haunting of Hill House.
Prediction: Director Floria Sigismondi will no doubt bring some artistic visual flair that is evidence from her music videos, but could possibly fall foul of “popcorn syndrome” – Light, fluffy with a bit of crunch and serves the masses, but ultimately has no substance.
Initially I was really excited about this release, being a fan of the Ju On franchise, plus Nicolas Pesce’s work with The Eyes of My Mother, and Piercing. Both movies have pushed the boundaries of comfort and shot in stylistic fashion that I was keen to see where Pesce would take The Grudge. Early reports haven’t been favourable however, so it could be another disappointment in the first month of the new decade.
Prediction: Could be another franchise instalment too many. The name alone will pull in the numbers, yet may not hit the mark on the scare front.
Jan 31 – Gretel and Hansel
It’s been over 200 years since The Brothers Grimm fashioned the fairy tale about a cannibalistic witch that kidnaps two children roaming in the woods. The fact that it is still resonates today is a testament to the strength of the storytelling and it will be interesting to see the story told from the perspective of Gretel played by Sophia Lillis (IT) who has already proved compelling as the young Beverly Marsh.
Prediction: Better than your average fair without necessarily offering anything new or compelling with the horror genre.
Some may argue its place in this list, but it is billed as a psychological horror and director Robert Eggers has already made a name for himself in the artistic expressionism world within the genre with his debut feature, The VVitch, a film that also divided audiences. American audiences have already seen the movie too as it was released there last year, but as yet Australian audiences are still to see Eggers’ sophomore outing which pits Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson against one another in a battle of wills and sanity in a remote and confined island.
Prediction: Will wow audiences looking for the alternative and alienate those more into the mainstream. Either way, both audiences will applaud the performances and Eggers and cinematographer Jarin Blaschke will paint a stunningly beautiful canvas.
Feb 13 – Fantasy Island
Blumhouse Productions are about to shake things up again by breathing new life into a cult 70s tv series. With a star-studded cast – Michael Pena (Crash), Maggie Q (Nikita), Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars), and Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer). On an island where your fantasies come true, only to turn into nightmares and the guests must figure out its mystery in order to survive.
Prediction: Another success for Jason Blum and the team which will connect with the cinema-going public. If it’s played right, it could offer a fresh take using a blend of fantasy and horror that could also spark a franchise
Feb 21 – Brahms: The Boy ll
This one is a bit of an oddity. Whilst its predecessor was a middle of the road affair and proved to be better than expected. It did feel like a one-off movie that didn’t necessarily warrant any further journey into the world of Brahms. A sequel is here though and will pick up with the doll being discovered by another family.
Prediction: A flop that will fall by the wayside and may not even make a blip on the radar.
Feb 27 – The Invisible Man
Another Blumhouse movie, this time in collaboration with Universal to resurrect their monsters franchise after the abysmal Tom Cruise vehicle from a few years ago. In what is potentially a ripe and current topic being explored in domestic violence as its central theme The Invisible Man boasts a cracking cast with Elisabeth Moss taking lead duties. It’s also in great hands with director Leigh Whannel steering the ship following his successful movie Upgrade from last year, plus Whannel is a storyteller, so expect a decent script to boot.
Prediction: The first big success of the year bringing the Universal monsters franchise back on track and paving the way for future projects with The Bride, Renfeld, The Invisible Woman, and Frankenstein.
Mar 20 – A Quiet Place Part 2
The question is whether director John Krasiniski can repeat the winning formula from the first movie. This War of the Worlds style feature with an audio twist is more sci-fi than horror, but with the family in plight scenario held a strong connection with the audience. How will this translate now that there is an absent father?
Prediction: Cillian Murphy will provide some much needed gravitas to the narrative which will be strong enough to lift the audience through with some decent ups and downs to wrench up the tension.
Apr 3 – The New Mutants
Since Disney took over Marvel operations, The New Mutants has been stuck in production, deemed a little dark for the House of Mouse questioning how to distribute it. The feature comes across as The Dream Warriors crossed with the X-Men and centres on 5 young mutants held in a secret facility against their will. It also boasts a cracking cast with Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Anya Taylor-Joy (The VVitch, Split), and Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things).
Prediction: Despite several delays I feel that this film is gonna connect in a big way and pull in a lot of people. It just depends on how dark Disney are willing to go with it.
Apr 17 – Antlers
Little is known about this movie other than it is based on a short story by Nick Antosca the creative mind behind the Channel Zero anthology series. The screenplay must have some potential to have caught the eye of Guillermo Del Toro and put his name down as producer.
Prediction: With Keri Russell in the cast to provide the fantasy elements in reality, this could well be the surprise hit of the year.
May 15 – Saw reboot
Currently titled The Organ Donor starring Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson and Max Minghella this reboot of the Saw franchise will see the return of the Jigsaw Killer, but without Tobin Bell… I think? With director Darren Lynn Bousman at the helm once more following his turn overseeing parts 2-4, he is no stranger to the world.
Prediction: Will put bums on seats for the shock gore factor alone, but will the buddy cop drama approach pay off? Time will tell.
Jun 11 – Candyman
This is gonna be a tough one to watch for me as I am such a huge fan of the original movie and like Freddy, Candyman would haunt my dreams for a long time after viewing. A lot of that has to do with the strength of Clive Barker’s short story coupled with Tony Todd’s personification of the titular character. Part of me is willing for this to be a success though as I can see room for the movie to be delivered to a modern audience using folklore and mythology at its core, and the storyline itself can transcend easily through the ages. It will be interesting to see a female perspective in director Nia DaCosta to follow Helen’s journalistic investigations.
Prediction: Jordan Peele has attached his name to this project and is clearly passionate about the story, but one can’t help but feel this is one step too far in rekindling the old flame that resides within the Candyman story.
Jul 2 – Ghostbuster: Afterlife
I know it’s technically not a horror film, but I’m including this in the mix for its nostalgic value in me the original movie paved the love of horror that I have and opened the door to many more glorious visions in the genre ever since. The original team will return in some shape or form, but primarily the film centres around a mother and her two children who set up on a farm only to discover something paranormal lurking in the town.
Prediction: Another film that will be resting on the merits of the first film, and while it’s great to see Jason Reitman take on the franchise following in his father’s footsteps, one can only hope that there will be enough comedy, horror and sci-fi to capture that old magic, but I think it will just be a glimmer rather than that sparkle.
Jul 10 – The Purge 5
Supposedly returning for the final instalment the 12 hour no holds-barred, crimefest ignited something in the movie-going audience. It has seen five feature length instalments and 2 seasons.
Prediction: More of the same, so if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll love it. I for one think the films are fun and enjoyable and it will be interesting to see how James DiMonaco will conclude things.
Jul 30 – Morbius
Sony has promised to take the Marvel universe into dark territory before with Venom and here they intend to do so again with Morbius, the Living Vampire. Jared Leto will no doubt bring the goods for the titular role and is in good company with Matt Smith, Jared Leto, and Tyrese Gibson.
Prediction: Director Daniel Espinosa provides great entertaining and solid movies, such as Safe House and Life, and I see no change here to his formula, but still question if they can go dark enough to make it compelling for horror fans.
Sep 11 – The Conjuring 3 aka The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
The Conjuring universe has progressed in leaps and bounds since its initial release in 2013. There has been the odd blips, but essentially the films continue to entertain and scare audiences. This latest film will once again see the Warrens at the centre of proceedings, this time with one of their most publicised cases that bore witness to Arne Cheyenne Johnson claiming that he was possessed when he murdered.
Prediction: Solid acting, tight storyline, but may fall down with its delivery and exposition. Unfortunately Director Michael Chaves didn’t deliver with The Curse of La Llorona, so I fear that this may end up in a similar way, but am still willing to give it a chance.
Sep 17 – Last Night In Soho
Not much known about this one, but Edgar Wright has a knack for tapping the pulse of classic films and adapting their essence for a modern audience. This time around the psychological horror is inspired by Don’t Look Now and Polanski’s Repulsion both high in my all-time favourite lists
Prediction: A killer cast in Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Diana Rigg, and Terence Stamp, this could be the ‘big hit’ of the year.
Oct 15 – Halloween Kills
In 2018, David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and Jason Blum attempted the impossible, the resurrection of Michael Myers that would connect both fans of the original and connect with a new audience. By delving into the subject of trauma and the impact that this has on its victims, Myers became both topical and harrowing. His sheer brutality and the force in which he attacks his victims made his carnage all the more disturbing.
Prediction: The name and sheer presence of Myers will bring the audience to the screens, but can they still make him relevant? They can’t rest on the nostalgic nods this time around. It’s a fine line to walk on, for if they get it wrong, they could find their final instalment, Halloween Ends a tricky sell.
TBC – Army of the Dead
For sheer shits and giggles, and action-pumped mayhem from visual storyteller Zack Snyder, about a group of mercenaries who decide to rob a casino during a zombie outbreak, this film concludes our list.
Prediction: Starring Dave Bautista, Army of the Dead will be entertaining if nothing else. A perfect answer for those just wanting to get their kicks and not have to think too deeply.
As part of some of the recent articles I’ve written, I’ve been casting myself back through the Universal Horror vault and scrutinizing the films of yester-year. When the production house hit their stride off the back of successes with Dracula and Frankenstein, they began to march out similar stories, some stronger than others.
1933’s The Invisible Man happens to be one of the better movies of that era. Based on the novel by notorious science fiction writer, H.G. Wells, who happens to have hailed from my neck of the woods in Bromley, Kent, England, so top bloke then. J
In this adaptation, Universal went all out to make the special FX convincing and frightening enough that it was considered groundbreaking for its time and still stands strong today.
Whilst watching the movie, the use of this effect is certainly the centerpiece and Universal weren’t shy in using it, and threw the audience into the action, fairly early on, with a slight build up of character development before hand.
FX aside, it is Rains who steals the show with his performance as Dr Jack Griffin aka The Invisible Man in what was his debut in an American feature.
Despite the fact that we only ever see his face in the films conclusion, Rains manages to portray the maniacal menace of the doctor, (who curiously the story of his unfortunate transition is never seen) with absolute believability.
Rains would go on to feature in several Universal features including The Wolf Man and Phantom of the Opera.
But for me, he will forever be cemented as Capt. Louis Renault in Casablanca.
There is an amiable support cast too that lends weight to the strength of this film including Gloria Stuart (The Old Dark House, and the older Rose in James Cameron’s Titanic), Henry Travers (It’s A Wonderful Life), and Una O’Connor (Bride of Frankenstein).
All of whom are helmed together by the fabulous director James Whale, who also directed Universal’s last successful film, Frankenstein, proving that this was no mere fluke and would go on to achieve further success with Bride of Frankenstein.
Such was the success of this feature that it would spawn several sequels, including one that would star Vincent Price.
It as often been emanated but never in my humble opinion repeated. The less said about John Carpenter’s The Memoirs of an Invisible Man and The Hollow Man, the better.