Kevin Bacon brings himself home
in a cleverly told horror tale
Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla
(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)
Horror movies can basically be divided into these categories: Bug Hunts, Devil Flicks, Haunted Houses, Dead & the Undead and that old hoary standby, the Mad Scientist. Although Mad Scientist flicks are currently out of vogue, "Hollow Man" seeks to breathe life into the genre.
Dr. Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) is a brilliant but megalamaniacal scientest working on a top secret project for the Pentagon to render humans invisible and then bring them back to visibility. The invisible part he and his staff (which includes his ex-lover Linda (Elizabeth Shue) and the hunky Matt (Josh Brolin) who has unbeknownst to the good doc begun carrying on with his ex behind his back)have already accomplished on a variety of critters; dogs, monkeys, cats, apes etc. It's bringing them back that has 'em stumped.
While watching a comely neighbor undress, the lecherous Sebastian finds inspiration in a bra strap (Ah, don't we all?) and solves the problem of um, un-invisibling his test subject. Playing it cagey, though, the mad doctor tells the Pentagon's scientific liason Dr. Kramer (William Devane, an underrated actor) that they are close to a breakthrough but haven't achieved it yet (even though they have). This, explains Sebastian to his mystified colleagues, will buy them time before the military wrests control of the project from them. Time enough to experiment on a human - namely, Sebastian himself.
The process, though painful, works like a charm and Sebastian finds himself transparent. This brings about a marvelous sense of freedom for the good doctor, not to mention oodles of data to analyze. Trouble is, the reversion process doesn't work on Sebastian. He remains invisible.
Days pass and Sebastian, confined to the lab, begins to get a little stir-crazy. He begins to take strolls out of the building, clad in a latex skin that makes him kinda visible, if a little odd-looking. He also begins to indulge in a few naughty fantasies. Eventually, he finds he likes the freedom of being invisible, but he knows that his staff and the military bigwigs won't let him remain that way. That's when the body count begins to rise.
The special effects are truly breathtaking marvelous stuff. At different times Sebastian is made partially visible by steam, smoke, water, fire, and, um, blood. The transformation process, which peels away skin, muscle, organ and bone away layer by layer, looks about as real as you can make a process which doesn't exist. It's a bit graphic at times - director Paul Verhoeven ("Total Recall" and "Robocop") has a history of being a bit over-the-top with sex and violence -- so this is definitely not for the squeamish.
Secondly, the Sebastian Caine character starts out as an arrogant jerk with a God complex. It isn't much of a stretch to see him develop into a violent psychopath. The drama would have been better served to make Sebastian start out as a basically decent guy who is corrupted by the seductiveness of invisibility and changes his personality accordingly. That would make his fall more compelling.
Da Queen liked the movie better than I (which is unusual in that you would think that I, as the card-carrying testosterone-laden fella would have been the one liking it more), saying she never got bored. "Hollow Man" is definitely not boring; it moves at a brisk pace and the eye candy keeps the brain pacified. With just a little bit of script doctoring and a nicer Dr. Sebastian Caine at the start, this could have been a classic. As it is, it's entertaining summer fare. That much is plain to see.
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See cast, credit and other details about "Hollow Man" at Internet Movie Data Base.