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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Day 232: Hollow Man

Hollow Man
Is that Jason Vorhees? Michael Myers? Ken Dryden?

Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Mummy. Everyone knows these classic monsters from the Golden Era of horror movies. They have had countless adaptations, remakes, and re-imaginings. One monster, though, has been looked over more than the Creature From The Black Lagoon. I'm talking about the Invisible Man. Perhaps it's because the Invisible Man is, well, a man or maybe he is not as visually appealing as the other monsters, but for whatever reason, the Invisible Man is just not very popular. Maybe a modern take on the story would breathe new life into the character just like The Mummy series with Brendan Frasier. Having Kevin Bacon involved is a good start.

Hollow Man is a 2000 science-fiction horror movie inspired by the H.G. Wells story, The Invisible Man. The movie stars Kevin Bacon (Tremors, Apollo 13) as Dr. Sebastian Caine and Elisabeth Shue (Adventures In Babysitting, The Karate Kid) as Dr. Linda McKay. They are part of a team of scientists, including Dr. Matt Kensington (Josh Brolin, No Country For Old Men, W.), working on an invisibility serum for the Pentagon. They test their serum on animals and are capable of turning them invisible, but cannot return them to their visible state. Sebastian has a breakthrough and injects an invisible gorilla with the new serum, making it visible again. When asked by his government superiors about his progress, Sebastian does not tell them about the breakthrough. He believes that in order to keep control of his work he must test the serum on himself. Sebastian asks Matt and Linda to lie to the rest of the team for him in order to convince them to test the serum himself. Unbeknownst to him, Matt and Linda are secretly seeing each other romantically. With his group's help, Sebastian, through a great deal of physical pain and psychological stress, becomes invisible. Unfortunately, they are unable to turn him back, and the added power of being able to go anywhere undetected affects Sebastian's already fragile mental stability. Sebastian begins to harass his co-workers and people out in public, even molesting Linda in her sleep. When Linda and Matt tell their superior, Dr. Kramer, about what has happened, Sebastian drowns him in a pool. With his sanity slipping, Sebastian begins killing the members of his team one by one. How will Linda and Matt be able to stop someone they can't even see?

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon looking like a Jack O'Lantern

Most incarnations of the Invisible Man suffer from a lack of visuals. They show nothing and we just have to take their word for it that someone is there. They have to rely on bandages and clothing to show the Invisible Man, even thought there is no real point for him to have clothes on. Hollow Man uses modern special effects to actually make that weakness into it's greatest strength. The effects used throughout the movie look great, from highly detailed muscles and nervous systems to Kevin Bacon's transparent eyes when he wears synthetic skin. Special effects can only go so far, though. The movie starts out promising with good character development and a believable basis in science. The movie slows down once Sebastian becomes invisible, exactly where the movie should speed up. It takes too long for things to happen and when they finally do, it's very predictable. This is also around the same time that the movie goes from interesting and suspenseful to typical horror movie, complete with a race against time to stop an explosion. The movie poses interesting questions about absolute power corrupting absolutely and then just kind of forgets about them.

Director Paul Verhoeven is no stranger to science fiction/action movies with a resume including Total Recall, Starship Troopers, and Robocop. The action isn't the issue as there is plenty of it, with a good amount of blood and violence. The science fiction is fine, but not great as the movie loses it's direction in favor of action and special effects. It doesn't help that the movie is at least 20 minutes too long for no particular reason. The horror is pretty straightforward, which is unfortunate, because the Invisible Man has the potential to be scary in a cerebral way. Why not have him whisper in someone's ear rather than just charge at them with a weapon? That's just lazy writing. Kevin Bacon makes for a very good villian as the he is able to capture the egomaniacal nature and rage of Sebastian. Elisabeth Shue is good as well, pulling off the vulnerable yet confident Linda. Josh Borlin is fine, though he is just kind of “there” throughout the movie. 

"You spilled my cranberry juice! I'll kill you!"

It's always nice to see a horror movie use a classic character, especially one that doesn't receive much attention. Hollow Man gives the Invisible Man a modern spin, basing it in the modern world and giving it a heavy dose of science. The special effects are fantastic, even 12 years later. The violence is good and there is enough action to keep things interesting. The movie is a bit too long and tends to slow down in the middle. There are some missed opportunities for good scares as the movie goes for a more straightforward horror feel. The acting is good, but the story laves something to be desired. The movie did very well at the box office, and I can see the appeal. It's a good popcorn flick, but it is missing that something special to make it memorable.


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