HOLLOW MAN (2000) *** movie review by COOP

Posted on May 14th, 2008
Posted on May 14th, 2008

A “teaser trailer” is usually the first thing that the general audience sees of a feature motion picture. Coming out far before the film ever hits the silver screen, the teaser either shows a few attention-grabbing frames of the film or sometimes, nothing of the film at all. I particularly like these trailers due to the fact that they show only enough to get you interested and they don’t blow the ending or overexpose the most exciting parts of the movie. The first “Hollow Man” trailer was a perfect example of a good teaser. So good in fact, that it ended up being much better than the actual movie.

Kevin Bacon stars as scientist Sebastian Caine who works with a team of doctors in an underground bunker to perfect an invisibility serum. Apparently, going invisible isn’t the problem, it’s reversing the process that seems to have these scientists baffled. After successfully bringing a gorilla back from invisibility, Sebastian foolishly convinces this team to begin human testing… on himself. After repeated, failed attempts to make him visible again, Sebastian begins to go insane, paranoid and mad with power. Once he finds out that they are plotting against him, he decides to dispatch them, one by one.

Kevin Bacon was certainly a great choice for this role as the egomaniacal scientist. Few people recognize that one of his first, big roles was in the original horror slasher-film “Friday the 13th”. After last year’s underrated, ghost-thriller “A Stir of Echoes”, it’s nice to see him return to the genre. Elizabeth Shue apparently slowed down this production a great deal due to her breaking her ankle on the set. They should’ve cut her loose and found another actress for her part because her air-headed acting made her seem more like a “Valley girl” than a scientist. John Brolin’s performance proved equally unimpressive as Shue’s new love interest.

I’m very disappointed in Dutch director Paul Verhoeven’s handling of this story. Verhoeven has the distinction of being one of the most audacious and misunderstood filmmakers in the industry. His Hollywood efforts range from violent science fiction (“Robocop”, “Total Recall”, “Starship Troopers”) to down and dirty, erotic thrillers (“Basic Instinct”, “Showgirls”). He’s won international awards for his foreign-language films, but those get almost no American exposure. Sometimes labled as a misogynist and racist, Verhoeven simply shows what he knows from growing up in Nazi-occupied Europe. It’s nice to see him working the sci-fi angle again, but I expect better from him.

I always thought the idea of “The Invisible Man” was a lame premise for a story. The previous attempts I’ve seen at making a movie out of the subject just never caught my interest. The “Hollow Man” teaser changed my mind. I finally realized the horror potential of “the invisible man gone berserk” upon seeing how dangerous a man like that could be. They problem was that they didn’t follow through with the most potentially disturbing and frightening elements that the story had set up. It should’ve been easy considering the screenwriter had all of his ducks lined up in a row. They showed the potential danger that invisible animals presented, but they never expanded on the idea. I think it would have been extremely tense and frightening to be trapped in an underground, military bunker, while invisible apes and wolves rampage through the corridors. They also never fully explored Sebastian’s menacing threat as a sexual predator either. We don’t get to find out what he exactly did to his scantily-clad neighbor, but I suspect that scene was cut to avoid an NC-17 rating. Verhoeven’s movies are always heavily censored by the MPAA, but something tells me that adding the missing scenes wouldn’t save this film from being unexciting.

Although the film was heavily cut, there are still many adult scenes that would exclude the younger crowd. Less seasoned horror veterans might find the film frightening, while more exposed viewers will probably be bored by the lack of scares.

Scale of 1-5:

Most refreshing aspect of the film:
The special effects. Some were simply awe inspiring. Watching the invisible gorilla and Kevin Bacon dissolving and reintegrating right before our eyes make this movie worth taking a quick look at. The FX people handle many of the scenes with style as we see the invisible man become partially visible, being exposed to water, smoke even blood. This could possibly catch some attention from the Academy for it’s extensive use of special effects, but I’m not sure if the process they used was innovative enough. We will see come next spring.

Biggest gripe:
The logistics of invisibility used in the film. Although I do like the premise, the science just didn’t back up the story. He would never be entirely invisible due to dust, water and other particles clinging to his body externally (in the case of food, internally). He would be entirely visible through infared, a fact that his victims seem to ignore for most of the movie. Also, in order to make the someone invisible, the scientists injected them with an irradiated serum that put the put the subject into “phase shift”. This means that their molecules were altered to vibrate at a different frequency that our eyes can’t register. It’s my understanding that such a theoretical process cannot be achieved through injection and would do much more than making the subject invisible. He would become “ethreal” meaning he would pass through solid objects as well. Among many other problems, he would die in days due to the fact that he couldn’t eat, drink, or communicate because his vocal cords would be out of phase as well. Such a process would NEVER be feasable to the government or military, as suggested by this film.

Biggest surprise:
That they blew this film so terribly. It looked so promising, yet in the creative process, many of the good elements were lost. However, I still enjoy Paul Verhoeven’s style and admire his habit of taking big chances. If you like the visual style of “Hollow Man” as I did, You might like to revisit Verhoeven’s stylish, sci-fi, epics such as the fun “Robocop” and the violent “propaganda film” spoof, “Starship Troopers”. Will he join Sharon Stone in the now publicized “Basic Instinct 2”? I hope not, but with Paul, you never can tell.

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