Dissecting a Thriller: The Invisible Man Explained

Hitchcock’s “Pure cinema”

When it comes to filming horror/thrillers, there’s no better man to consult than the master of suspense — Alfred Hitchcock. He coined the term “Pure cinema” which is an approach to film-making that mainly uses imagery and sound in storytelling as opposed to using dialogues (or “photographs of people talking” in Hitchcock’s words). Dialogues convey the narrative of a story by directly telling the audience the events or background of the story through conversations between characters. Whereas “pure cinema” shows it to the audience. A key advantage of using “pure cinema” in filmmaking is that audiences would have to actively watch the film to piece the narrative together based on images. This is important for a successful thriller as it invites the viewer to feel the same anxiety, and pressure as the character. Watch how the opening sequence of The Invisible Man applies “pure cinema” not only to introduce the story.

Source: Fear: The Home of Horror
  • She has planned this escape for a while: drugging her boyfriend to sleep, disabling the cameras etc., which means she’s been wanting to escape but found it difficult.
  • Her boyfriend is a rich, tech genius who may be a possessive control freak because of all the cameras and high walls (his big house is like a jail) and he puts an electric collar on his dog. (A man who mistreats his dog? Red Flags!)
  • There is a display case that could showcase a suit but we can’t see it (foreshadowing)

Audience Participation

Perfecting the process of building tension and suspense is key to make a successful thriller that will leave audiences at the edge of their seat, heart pounding. Hitchcock once said,

Timing the Scare

Here’s another aspect where the film takes a page out of Hitchcock’s book: “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” The film has few and sparse, shocking jump scares (unlike many Hollywood production horror flicks) but has long suspenseful sequences that has terror that lasts longer than a few seconds of screams that a jump scare brings.

Filming the Invisible man

How does one come about filming an invisible subject? How do we make a character seem like he’s there when we can’t see him? Whannell creatively uses a combination of camera angles, timing and sound to bring an imperceivable character to life. We can hear his footsteps or creaking door opening. When he decides to interact with Cecilia, we see this footprint on the blanket and his cold breath in an otherwise empty air. But what about those moments when we don’t hear him move or when he doesn’t manipulate objects around him? That’s when a clever use of camera shots come to play.

Wide shots

Empty Spaces

Panning Shots

Panning shot from one side to the other
Source: Movieclips

Power Dynamic: Predator vs. Prey

The Disappointing End

“Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.”
Alfred Hitchcock

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