What do you find at the intersection of a peak 90s CGI, a star-studded cast, and a plot that presents a believable science to reach invisibility? Mostly looked over by cinema aficionados, thanks in no part to a completely bogus Rotten Tomato score of 27%, 2000’s Hollow Man is a 51:22 thrill ride that should be on every serious movie collector’s shelf. So how, nae, why is this film often shuffled into the annals of the horror genre?
You’re probably sitting there questioning every one of my words, but this movie sits on a special pedestal, the pedestal of the one, the ONLY, KEVIN Mother F*CKING BACON. I will stand firmly behind my belief that Kevin Bacon is an underappreciated actor in the genre, whose filmography includes (but not limited to) Friday the 13th(easily one of the best counselor kills in the franchise), Tremors – he kills giant sand worms, and Stir of Echoes-which offers such a high concept if you don’t get it, you’re dumb-really dumb. In Hollow Man, even with limited actual screen time (more on this later), Mr. Bacon delivers a career, maybe even a genre, defining performance!
Hollow Man is a “modern day”-as modern as the early 2000s could offer – invisible man adaptation. Dr. Sebastian Caine(Bacon) leads a team consisting of Dr. Linda McKay (Elizabeth Shue) and Dr. Matt Kensington (Josh Brolin) to develop a serum that allows organic life forms to phase shift – or to the layman, become invisible. After successfully phase shifting a gorilla and bringing it back, Dr. Caine decides it’s a stellar idea to being human trials on himself – because putting the head of a major research project in danger by using completely unproven technology usually ends with extremely favorable results. No surprise, there are complications and Caine is stuck as an invisible man. Sure, being invisible sounds like a great time – totally get away not wearing pants or showering for days on end, snatching the remote from your unsuspecting neighbor and changing the channel to Wheel of Fortune, or simply just making ghost noises in dark rooms. With a magnitude of opportunity, what does Sebastian decide to do? He gets all rapey on a co-worker with a friendly late night hooter fondle, peeping tom on neighbor, and check in on Dr. McKay, who conveniently is his ex-lover now shacking up with Dr. Kensington. Want to know how to really piss Kevin Bacon off? Dump his ass for the damn near Adonis level bone structure of Josh Brolin. Like any scientist scored, Dr. Caine then goes on a killing spree, taking each of his lab cohorts out “can’t see me” style.
Aside from a water-tight and believable plot, Hollow Man offers a pinnacle milestone in cinema history. Produced on a reported $95mil budget, over $50mil was allocated to SFX alone! Sony Pictures Imageworks and Tippet Studio were able to harness cutting edge camera capture technology coupled with green screen/suit and 3-D renderings to deliver a non-distracting visual performance of a disappearing gorilla and ultimately an invisible Kevin Bacon. I would be doing a disservice if credit was not given to the attention given to the male genitalia that is present in muscular tissue form during the phase shifting transformations. Allegedly, every aspect of Kevin was scanned in and used to create this form, a welcome addition to the full man-ass shot Bacon also delivers on camera.
Unfortunately, despite a superior visual effects efforts which was rewarded with an Academy Awards nomination for Best Visual Effects ultimately losing to Gladiator(total bullshit), Hollow Man was met with a luke-warm reception. For a horror-thriller in a waning time for the genre, the film still managed to reel in $190mil worldwide, which by studio standards was successful enough to merit a straight to video 2006 release of Hollow Man 2 – which unfortunately does not feature any of the original cast. All this is further compounded by director Paul Verhoeven, of Starship Trooper and Basic Instinct fame, view that Hollow Man was a mistake in his film making career, stating in a 2013 interview that it was a film he should not have made. I respectfully disagree and am thankful that this performance did grace the silver screen. In fact, having stumbled across this gem, I’m inspired to revisit more of Kevin Bacon’s illustrious horror genre career.
And for your viewing pleasure, the Theatrical Trailer for Hollow Man!