Of the Universal classic monsters—Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, et al.—The Invisible Man is by far the most destructive, the most psychotic, and, not coincidentally, the most recognizably human of them all. (As played by Claude Rains, he's also the wittiest.) When a man doesn't have to look at himself in the mirror, he divorces himself from the moral accountability that curbs his worst instincts. Arrogance and contempt are his defining character traits, and invisibility has the effect of weaponizing them, because his scientific genius has both isolated him from other people and heightened his superiority complex.
With his ingenious updating of The Invisible Man, writer-director Leigh Whannell changes perspective from the mad scientist to the terrified victim he's stalking, which effectively turns the film into Gaslight with a horror twist. And with an actress of Elisabeth Moss' caliber in the lead role, the film has a psychological realism that's unusual for the genre, with Moss playing a woman who's withstanding a form of domestic abuse that may have a supernatural component, but feels sickeningly familiar in many respects. Invisibility has the effect of elevating a person's worst instincts, so it follows that the manipulation and torment she experiences is just a more extreme version of common behaviors.
The brilliant opening sequence underlines this theme by removing all science fiction from the equation. In the middle of the night, Cecelia (Moss) slips away from the bed she shares with her scientist husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and carries out a plan to leave him for good. There are obstacles to the plan, like the lonely cliffside location of their house and the high-tech security he's installed as much to keep her in as to keep intruders out. But at this point in the film, Adrian is still a visible menace and Cecelia has to dash out into the night to escape him, as if this was an ordinary case of domestic battery.
Except it's not remotely ordinary. Cecelia has her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) drop her off at the house of an old friend, James (Aldis Hodge), a well-built policeman who offers her protection and allows her to bunk with his daughter (Storm Reid). Cecelia can hardly bring herself to leave the house until she gets word from Emily that Adrian has committed suicide and that she's due for a multi-million dollar payoff from his brother (Michael Dorman), a lawyer who's managing his sizable estate. Yet she cannot shake the feeling that Adrian is still present, due to a series of events that are minor at first—a grease fire in the kitchen, a misplaced set of plans—but soon turn violent. And it always looks like she's responsible: Who else could have done these awful things?