“The Invisible Man” may only be his third directorial effort, but Leigh Whannell has been terrorizing audiences for years. From “Saw,” to “Dead Silence,” to the “Insidious” franchise, Whannell (and his frequent collaborator James Wan) is one of the masterminds behind some of the 21st Century’s most iconic and effective scares. His latest film reinvents the classic Universal monster for a modern audience through a chilling tale of a woman (Elizabeth Moss) who believes she is being stalked by her supposedly deceased abusive partner. While the writer/director evoked fear through his timely analogy of the gaslighting ghouls of today, he also looked to the past to draw from a lost genre.
The rise of big-budget superhero blockbusters over the past two decades has minimized the frequency of mid-budget genre films. Outside of the “John Wick” franchise, you’ll only really find them under the Blumhouse banner. Whannell’s second feature, “Upgrade” (a Blumhouse production), showcased his reverence for the bygone era as it harkened back to the John Carpenter sci-fi action body horror films of the 80s and 90s. With “The Invisible Man,” Whannell once again returns to the mid-budget well to revitalize 90s adult thrillers featuring A-List talent.
“There’s a certain brand of adult thriller [during the late 80s/early 90s] I feel Hollywood used to make on a big scale [starring big names] right before the advent of CG when anything was possible,” said Whannell. “‘Fatal Attraction,’ ‘Misery,’ ‘The Hand that Rocks the Cradle,’ there was this whole mini-genre of psycho stalkers and I miss that. I used to love those movies I think partly because that was my era, so I have a lot of nostalgic affection for them. But I also miss character-driven thrillers that you can hold in your hand. So, in a way, ‘Invisible Man’ was a reflection of that.”
Outside of David Fincher, not many filmmakers are successfully recapturing the magic of those mid-budget genre pieces. Perhaps this is why Whannell’s latest was not only inspired by Fincher’s work but why Fincher himself is somewhat of an aspirational figure to Whannell.
“I love David Fincher. I think he has a real signature. It’s hard enough to make a movie, let alone make a good movie, let alone make a good movie that is recognizably yours. How many filmmakers can you count on your hands where you know who it is within a few minutes of watching? Fincher’s one of those people and I love his style. That’s what I aspire to. My big goal in life in however many years it takes would be for people to say, oh, this is such a Leigh Whannell movie.”
Aside from the works and people that inspired “The Invisible Man,” Whannell discussed the state of horror, weaponizing an audience’s cinematic knowledge, his collaborations with Jason Blum and James Wan, his favorite LA sushi hotspot and much more.
As always, The Fourth Wall is part of The Playlist Podcast Network—which includes The Discourse, Be Reel, and more –and can be heard on iTunes, AnchorFM, Soundcloud, Stitcher, and now on Spotify. To listen on this page, you can stream the podcast via the AnchorFM embed below or up top. Follow us on iTunes, and you’ll get this podcast as well as our other shows regularly. Be sure to subscribe, and drop us a comment or a rating as we do appreciate it.
“The Invisible Man” is now playing in theaters everywhere.