Unfortunately for Universal, the Dark Universe never even got off the ground after the disappointment of The Mummy. So the studio took a leaf from Warner Bros' book and reimagined its shared cinematic universe as... not a shared cinematic universe.
And so we arrive at Leigh Whannell's The Invisible Man, starring Elisabeth Moss in the redefined lead role and The Haunting of Hill House's Oliver Jackson-Cohen as the titular monster.
Universal's move has proved to be a smart one as The Invisible Man is a tense and chilling reinvention of HG Wells's novel, with an excellent lead performance from Elisabeth Moss.
The new version of The Invisible Man reimagines the brilliant optics scientist – now Adrian Griffin (Jackson-Cohen) – as an abusive boyfriend to Cecilia Kass (Moss), who manages to escape in the middle of the night with the help of her sister Alice (Harriet Dyer).
Two weeks later, Cecilia is living in hiding with her childhood friend James (Aldis Hodge) when she receives the surprising news that Adrian has killed himself, leaving her $5 million of his fortune as long as she doesn't commit a crime and isn't ruled to be "mentally incompetent".
But when a series of events causes Cecilia to question whether Adrian is really dead – and people question her sanity – she has to prove she is being hunted and tormented by someone nobody can see.
Whatever that Johnny Depp version of The Invisible Man would have turned out being, it's hard to imagine it matching the idea behind Whannell's version.
Reimagining the theme as an abusive boyfriend gaslighting his ex is one of those ideas that just works, both in theory and execution. It means the movie feels timely and grounded – though this is still very much a horror movie.
Whannell gives you no time to settle as The Invisible Man opens with a near-wordless sequence as Cecilia escapes from Adrian, with a dog bowl providing the first huge jump scare of the movie. It puts you right on edge from the get-go and sets up the prospect of how the ordinary can be terrifying.
That plays a major factor in the terrifying first hour that has extended sequences of Cecilia being tormented.
Often, it's just her slowly looking around the house, looking for whatever is in the shadows haunting her. Without the use of quick cuts or loud noises, Whannell forces you to be right there with Cecilia examining every corner of the screen, tensely awaiting something to jump out.
It's supremely effective and is helped by Elisabeth Moss's excellent performance. If there's one actor you'd choose to sell the heightened reality of being stalked by an invisible entity, it's Moss, as she doesn't hold anything back and fully commits to the terror.
It's all the more impressive as she's often acting against nothing, until the impressive invisibility effects come into play later on in the movie as Cecilia battles with whoever – or whatever – is tormenting her.
If you were worried that the trailer reveals too much by showing that there really is an invisible man, it's not an issue in the movie as there's never really any doubt for the audience that Cecilia is telling the truth.
That robs it of some mystery, but there are surprises in store and the fact that we, as an audience, know Cecilia is being tormented is what makes the scares so chilling.
As we head into the second half, The Invisible Man transforms into a different movie with Whannell drawing on his sci-fi action movie Upgrade. While it might not be as engaging as the first half, it's clear that Whannell is a stylish and assured director with a distinct vision for the set pieces.
What lets the movie down is the final third, where it feels as though Whannell is unsure of how to wrap everything up.
As satisfying as the actual ending sequence is (and it is a killer beat), there are a couple of false endings and a convoluted reveal thrown into the mix before we get there. It pads out what would have been a lean and effective horror, generating a debate over certain developments that feels unnecessary.
While it might mean that The Invisible Man doesn't fully deliver on the promise of its first half, it's still a successful restart to Universal's attempts to bring its classic monsters into the modern era. Put it this way: at no point do you think it'd be a much better movie if it featured a crossover from Russell Crowe's Dr Jekyll.
Leigh Whannell focuses on just delivering a terrifying horror, and delivers the thrills.
The Invisible Man is out now in cinemas.
Director: Leigh Whannell; Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman; Running time: 124 minutes; Certificate: 15
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