Kevin Bacon is the invisible man in a film directed by Paul Verhoeven where Bacon loses it and starts using his newfound power in creepy, disturbing, criminal ways.
Why wouldn't you like this movie?!
I mean, ok, so as an effects-led flick, Hollow Man was always going to risk looking dated really quickly and, admittedly, whenever we see invisible Bacon surrounded by smoke or water, it looks a little too clean CGI-wise. That said, most of the effects are still pretty cool and do the job so, 14 years on, the film still stands up surprisingly well. After all, Paul Verhoeven has made a career our of movies which really shouldn't work and yet work completely, often becoming instant cult classics. Arnie on Mars? Space bug wars? Robot cops? Really boring Michael Douglas movies? The man can make anything work. Even Showgirls! Can't deny how hilarious that movie is. Hollow Man takes H.G. Wells' classic invisible man, leaving behind John Carpenter's more light-hearted approach to the concept, and gives the character back his unsettling, perverted edge. Finally, the invisible man can stand proudly next to Jekyll & Hyde, Dracula, Frankenstein etc. as an unpredictable monster to fear and be grossed out by again. There's a camp feel to Hollow Man and yet it's still rather effective as a Hitchcockian horror movie. Bacon plays a cocky scientist so proud of his new experiment that he decides to prove it works on a human subject by unlawfully testing it on himself. Of course, this backfires and he starts to feel claustrophobic, eventually revealing a dark, sadistic side to himself which finally takes over.
A love triangle is introduced early on between Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue and Josh Brolin as Shue plays Bacon's ex-wife and colleague who is having an affair with Brolin, also Bacon's colleague. It's an awkward set-up which can only go very wrong. The film opens on a rat meeting its gory end so, although Verhoeven does a great job building up suspense, he never forget to show us some messed-up stuff, keeping the film entertaining and very much in the old-fashioned horror genre. The idea that Bacon's character was already quietly disturbed before becoming invisible is a well thought-out one as the alternative would suggest that, either the serum he's taken drove him nuts, or that anyone with that power would probably do the same thing, which would of course be false. When that hollow man shows up at some random woman's house and essentially rapes her, easily one of the film's most uncomfortable, frightening moments, you know the character has crossed a line he was probably already thinking about crossing, his power simply making it easier for him to get away with. The film may devolve into a more clichéd horror thriller in its final act, with characters getting killed off one by one by an unknown force, and that's a bit of a shame since it becomes far more basic and predictable but it remains fun and nail-biting regardless.
Ultimately, Hollow Man is a solid, if slightly uneven horror flick which brings back the psychotic invisible man from back in the day through perfect performances, slick and smart direction, cool ground-breaking (at the time) special effects and cruel little moments of gore and unease.
An underrated monster movie.