The F*ckin Black Sheep: Hollow Man (2000)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Hollow Man (2000)
 Directed by Paul Verhoeven

“HOLLOW MAN is a much more straightforward tale of madness.”

I don’t think I’m going out on a thin limb claiming I dig me some Paul Verhoeven. The man made some of the best sci-fi films ever in ROBOCOP, STARSHIP TROOPERS, and TOTAL RECALL…along with one of the best cult movies ever in SHOWGIRLS. Anyway, after a good 15-year or so run in Hollywood, Verhoeven disappeared and returned to his native land of Holland to make films. The movie that ended his run? HOLLOW MAN.

HOLLOW MAN did decent at the box office (earning around $190,000,000 worldwide on a $95,000,000 budget), but on the surface it lacked that trademark Verhoeven wit. In fact, most folks who don’t dig Verhoeven’s final Hollywood film bitched about it being more or less a B-level horror flick with A-level special effects. Fair enough. But what’s wrong with that? Why can’t a good old-fashioned horror movie look like it had an actual budget? Instead, HOLLOW MAN is a much more straightforward tale of madness, a very old school story with a lot of badass, top-shelf CGI.

Why call the thing old school? It’s essentially a mad scientist flick with Kevin Bacon starring as Sebastian Caine (now that’s a bad guy’s name), a cocksure scientist who’s obsessed with making a name for himself. He leads a group including Linda (Elizabeth Shue), Matthew (Josh Brolin), and a few other folks on a government contract in finding a stable way to make people invisible. Sebastian actually cracks the code and turns a gorilla invisible, but when they have a meeting with military brass for updates Sebastian lies and says they haven’t just yet. Why lie? He wants the glory of being the first test subject. To be the first invisible man before the government gets to have all the fun. Anyway, Sebastian obviously injects himself and ends up going a little mad. He becomes a full pervert asshole with women, but when his co-workers talk shit on him and he finds out that pipe smoking (and every mid to late 90’s government villain) William Devane is cancelling their project, he goes full psycho and starts killing.

Fifteen years after it came out, HOLLOW MAN’s effects still look great. Sure, CGI always dates over time, but it’s obvious this movie had a budget. Both Sebastian’s and the gorilla’s transformation not only look fantastic, but they look painful as shit too. We feel it (almost) as much as they do. As for the “invisible” effects, HOLLOW MAN does better than every other Invisible Man movie before it. Verhoeven skips on the floating baseball hat or wrapped scarf and instead gives us that creepy latex mask (with no eyes or mouth…which is used to great effect when Bacon scares the shit out of a pair of kids). When Sebastian goes full nude, it’s genuinely a scary thing. The guy is a nut with bad intent, and the only way to see him is to throw blood at him (don’t ask) or steam up the lab in hopes of seeing his form. And whenever they do, it looks equally as cool as it did 15 years ago.

Now Sebastian isn’t your typical evil scientist. He starts out seemingly normal though he does like trying to get a peek at his hot neighbor and he’s an egomaniac with a love for Twinkies (I can’t picture skinny Bacon continuously eating Twinkies). His switch from an asshole to outright psycho murderer still plays a bit abrupt, but it’s one of those things to shrug off. Just roll with it and let Sebastian have his evil fun. Verhoeven does great with the rest of the cast with Shue getting top billing. I think the story could have been opened up a little to give more depth, but it still works.

More than that, I do wish Verhoeven added the social commentary that made ROBOCOP and STARSHIP TROOPERS so damn good. HOLLOW MAN entertains as a mad scientist movie, but what if it had something to say? If it punched viewers in the gut, while scaring and wowing them with CGI? Now that would have been a way to end a Hollywood career.





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