Now You See Him...

An effects-laden thriller that starts out strong and then degenerates into an all-out gorefest.

"Hollow Man" is founded on a simple premise, summed up best in the trailer's hook line - "it's amazing what you can do when you don't have to look in the mirror". While the story bears some resemblance to H. G. Wells' classic, "The Invisible Man", and almost no resemblance to that other great invisible-man movie, "Memoirs Of An Invisible Man", director Paul Verhoeven has updated it with a nastier villain and some great special effects.

"Hollow Man" introduces us to Dr. Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon), a brilliant scientist working to discover the secret of invisibility on a secret military project. Caine and his colleagues have succeeded in turning primates invisible, but have hit a block when it comes to returning them to normal - until the day Caine develops a serum which successfully reverses the process. Driven by ego, Caine then proceeds to shoot himself up with the invisibility serum, thereby becoming the first human being to test it; unfortunately, when he tries to return to the visible spectrum, the antidote fails.

Now invisible and on the verge of having his project shut down by the government, Caine goes on a rampage, relying on his invisibility to protect himself from the consequences. The only people who can stop him are his former colleagues, and he's determined not to let that happen...

If you accept the premise, "Hollow Man" does have a strong story going for it, and it's enhanced by some fabulous visual effects of Caine slowly turning invisible, different layers of his body disappearing until there's nothing visible. There are also some great scenes while he's on the run - the pool scene, in which a transparent Caine murders the man who plans to shut down the project, or the spooky latex mask he wears, are both masterpieces.

But while the movie starts out strong, it degenerates halfway through into a hack-and-slash gorefest of the "Scream" variety, as Caine's former colleagues die gruesome deaths, one after the other. Even Caine's refusal to stay dead (this after he's been hit on the head and electrocuted!) is typical of many slasher flicks, and comical in the extreme.

The acting isn't all that great, either - Elisabeth Shue isn't very convincing as Bacon's second-in-command and ex-lover, while some of Bacon's best scenes are when he's already invisible. I also thought that the editing could do with a bit of work - in the cut I saw, boom microphones were clearly visible over the actors' heads in several scenes and the movie struck me as thirty minutes too long. These gripes aside, "Hollow Man" is still worth watching for the fabulous special effects - but oh, it could have been so much more!

This article was first published on 23 Nov 2000.