Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index

HOLLOW MAN

Directed by Paul Verhoeven (2000, Columbia Pictures)
Starring Elisabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon, and Josh Brolin

After testing out an invisibility syrum, a man decides that he likes it when nobody can see what he's up to.

 

 

1 star+

January 26th, 2001, on Video  
    An interesting, if dubious, concept, at least for the first half of the movie. After that, it went downhill in a large hurry, hitting the bottom basement by the last couple of minutes.

I can't figure out who would truly enjoy this movie. For the first half, it's more drama than anything else. People who were lured into seeing it because it looked like a scary film would surely be disappointed and itching to see some scary stuff well before it starts getting jumpy. On the other hand, people looking for interesting science, in futuristic terms, as I was, would definitely be intrigued by the beginning, even though that was nothing standout. But the last half of the movie was so poorly written, with moderately acted and poorly directed scenes, that the whole thing leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I suppose people looking to see cool special effects would enjoy most of the movie, but if it means sitting through so many scenes without effects near the beginning, then such pathetic drama at the end, that I'm not sure it's worth it for them, either.

The movie started off well enough. It turns out that making people invisible is easy. The premise must be taken at face value if any part of the rest of the story is to work. There was too much technobabble in the scenes trying to explain what was going on, as if they wanted to make sure it sounded believable. This just means that it gets tuned out. 

What was played out very well was the attitude of the chief scientist, Sebastian. He is an egomaniac, who wants to be the one to go down in the history books as having created the first invisibility serum, and being the first person to do the injections. He doesn't care what kind of ethical aspects get in his way (for he gets them out of his way as soon as possible), and he can't figure out why any woman in the world would not want to be his lover. This includes Linda, the one person who understands the real science and scientific procedures, and who actually respects them. The other teammates are just window dressing (some literally, by the end). 

It was set up really early that Sebastian and Linda were lovers for a while, and that she broke it off, but he thinks she's just kidding. He finds out that she's sleeping with another man, and gets deeply jealous. When he finds out that it's another person on his team, he is furious. 

With good results from a test on a gorilla, both in rendering it invisible, and bringing it back (barely), Sebastian goes on to the next phase, without the defense department's approval. He injects himself with the serum. Unfortunately, when the time comes for him to be reverted back, the injection doesn't work, and nearly kills him. He becomes very annoyed by this, mostly, I think, because he isn't doing any research himself. 

But then he begins to enjoy himself. "It's amazing what you can do when you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror," he tells one of his co-workers. He escapes into the control room, where the woman who is supposed to be watching him (on an infrared monitor) is asleep. He unbuttons her blouse and massages her breast, until she wakes up. Quickly, he's back in bed -without her noticing the door opening and closing again. 

They create a mold for him, just like the makeup they use to create aliens in movies. He wears clothing, a hat and sunglasses, and for all intents and purposes, he's visible again. But that night he decides he's tired of being cooped up in the underground complex, so he goes back to his apartment. The team is alerted, and Linda finds his mask, gloves and clothing shed on his apartment floor. For he noticed the neighbour he's been lusting after for so long. She's just gotten into the shower. He goes over to her place, and watches her as she gets ready for bed. But his ego is just such that he can't resist toying with her. And finally, when she's spooked enough, he rapes her. It's not explicitly shown or even stated, but I'm sure of it. 

The next morning, he casually walks into the complex a if nothing was wrong. Then he hooks up a looping circuit in his bedroom, so that people watching the monitor will see his infrared shadow even when he's not there. And from here, the movie starts going downhill. He spies on Linda and finds out who her boyfriend is, and breaks her window out of fury. She knows instantly who did that, even though the person on alert says he's in bed. 

She and her boyfriend, Matthew, tell the head of the committee what has transpired, but the man is killed by Sebastian in a terribly executed scene. When Linda and Matthew show up at the complex, he locks them all in, intending to kill everybody who knows about his invisibility. But Linda and the others hunt for him, and they are all mowed down eventually (except for the two heroes, of course). When Matthew is impaled by a crowbar, Linda tapes him up with duct tape, and leaves him to hunt Sebastian. When Sebastian finally overcomes her, Matthew shows up and is able to knock him down! They then climb up the elevator shaft, struggle against a resurrected Sebastian, and climb again to safety. I've never heard of the healing power of duct tape before.

True to the Scream movies' advice, Sebastian has to be killed three times before he's down for good. All the death scenes are not worth mentioning, except for the explosion that Sebastian rigs. Completely predictable, the elevator is blasted up through the shaft, nearly killing our heroes again, before it comes crashing down. Amazing how the brakes only worked on the way down, and that they failed only when Linda was ready for them to fail.

The science at the beginning seemed fine, but the part I loved came when Linda was trapped in the freezer. She fashioned a magnet out of an electrical wire wrapped around a piece of iron! While I'm not sure it gave enough current to make such a strong magnet, the concept in itself was great!

Of course, the movie was made to show off special effects, if nothing else. And they were superb, in most cases. From the use of infrared (which became cloudy in the steam room) to showing the density differences in gasses and water, it was really amazing. A lot of it is contradictory when you think about the science, but who cares. (If he was invisible in air, why wouldn't he be invisible in water, too? And in smoke? That implies light is being refracted around him, not going through him. Otherwise we'd see the effect in air, too. But light is not being refracted around him, as can be seen when he disappears, skin first, then organs and tissues and bones -and why in that order, except to be very cool.)

Suffice it to say that although the beginning piqued my interest at first, that was never enough (nor was I ever avidly interested) to hold me throughout a movie that peaked before the halfway point, and took a drastic downturn shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, the second half of the movie took away more than the first half provided, thus the failing mark. Sure, it was a neat thing (and I loved the joke about Superman, Wonder Woman and the Invisible Man making love, which was foreshadowing itself), and many of the special effects were really cool, but not enough to bolster a flailing script.
 
   

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