The more I go back and watch John Carpenters movies, I can’t help but appreciate just how excellent he is as a director. Even his mediocre films are well made, exciting and brimming with interesting concepts. He could’ve just made Halloween sequels his entire career but instead he constantly chose to tell original and risky stories that most of his audience wasn’t ready for yet.
Take his late thriller Memoirs of an Invisible Man. The film was an adaptation of the book of the same name and retells the basic scenario of HG Well’s The Invisible Man. Unlike the Universal film though, this story doesn’t use its scenario to tell a story about madness and the evils of science without virtue.
John Carpenter’s film is a hapless victim story.
Our hero, Nick Halloway, is an intolerable businessman and a womanizer who accidentally stumbles into a science experiment that turns his entire body and cloths invisible. When a government agency starts trying to track him down, he goes on the run to try to protect himself while still remotely managing his business and personal life over the phone. His goal is to eventually find a way to fix his ailment and return to normal but the government wants to use him as an unstoppable spy and they’re determined to find him at any cost.
The film didn’t do well initially upon release because of its poor marketing and expectations. It was sold as a comedy with a comedy star (Chevy Chase) and a wacky trailer. In practice, the film is more of a light drama/thriller.
It’s not a terribly dramatic movie nor a particularly funny one. The scenarios play out mostly as you’d expect them to and the story’s resolution works out fairly conventionally. I can definitely see why critics would’ve savaged the film at the time of release. In Carpenters hands though, the movie mostly works!
Chevy Chase, Sam Neil and Daryl Hannah all do affable work turning in workman like performances and mostly treat the film as a straightforward scenario with realistic consequences.
The 1990s style special effects are all used appropriately despite some silly early 1990s CGI in a few places. The practical effects are used well to convey the idea that we’re looking at a “invisible man”.
Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a fun lessor entry in Carpenters work! It’s not a vital piece of work but it came in the final years of his career before his drive and talent let loose films like Escape From LA and Ghosts of Mars. It’s certainly worth a watch for Carpenter fans and didn’t deserve its negative reception in hindsight!