ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 10, 2000
Last month’s issue of Fangoria, America’s top horror magazine, features a story on Hollow Man with a front-cover image of a grimacing human head with all the skin removed, Hellraiser-style, so that you can see all the veins and underlying tissues. As far as makeup effects go, it’s a pretty arresting image. Unfortunately for the makers of Hollow Man, about all that the film has going for it is gore.
Little things like decent writing and believable acting get lost in the shower of blood ’n’ guts.
Kevin Bacon stars as gifted but arrogant scientist Sebastian Caine, who, while working on a top-secret U.S. government research project, develops a serum that induces complete invisibility. After trying his creation out on various animals, Caine gets his fellow scientists—including an old flame played by Elisabeth Shue, on a perennial bad-hair day—to inject him with the brightly coloured solution.
Caine gets invisible, all right, but when they try to bring him back to normal, the skin he’s in rejects the process, and he turns into a writhing version of the gooey Fangoria cover boy before becoming transparent for good. Then, instead of the old wrapped-bandages trick, his colleagues give shape to his face by pouring on a waxy, flesh-coloured substance. After complaining bitterly about the lab’s bright lights—invisible men don’t have functioning eyelids, ya see—Caine is happy as hell to have a mask to hang his shades on.
At this point, Caine’s latent megalomanic tendencies exert themselves, and the creep starts using his newfound powers to cop feels off sleeping women and attack wide-awake ones. His habit of sneaking up and molesting women is disturbing, but other than that there’s nothing frightening about an invisible man. So what if he takes his shades off and all you can see in there is air? Oh no, he’s going to open his mouth now! More air! Yikes! Scary air!
Although director Paul Verhoeven previously hit the mark with effects-filled sci-fi thrillers like Robocop and Total Recall, somebody forgot to tell him that invisible-man effects are hokey. The sight of two dozen sensors dangling in midair—supposedly hooked up to the invisible guy’s noggin—is just silly. Perhaps Verhoeven realized he was in trouble with Hollow Man’s basic premise, because partway through it becomes a run-of-the-mill body-count flick, with the deranged Caine trapping everyone in the huge lab and hunting them with a tire iron.
While blatantly ripping off Aliens and Friday the 13th, Verhoeven also pays homage to his crappy Showgirls by making sure that Shue gets plenty of screen time in a tight T-shirt.
At least he had the directorial foresight to make her bra invisible.