Film / Hollow Man

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"You know what, Matt? It's amazing what you can do... when you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror any more."
Sebastian Caine

Hollow Man (2000) is a science fiction thriller film directed by Paul Verhoeven, inspired by H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man. It stars Elisabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon, and Josh Brolin as a team of scientists trying to perfect the formula for an invisibility serum for the military. Initially, the only remaining snag is reversing the invisibility effect, but when Dr. Sebastian Caine (Bacon) discovers the key, the team eagerly anticipates gaining clearance for human trials.

Caine, however, has other ideas. Concealing their success from the military oversight committee, Caine uses himself as a test subject for the formula... but discovers the antidote doesn't work on humans. Already unstable from the start, Caine's sanity starts to fray further as the team struggles to find a cure for his invisibility, until it becomes clear that their invisible test subject is turning sociopathic...

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Visual Effects in 2000. The direct-to-video sequel, Hollow Man 2, was released in 2006.

Not to be mistaken with John Dickson Carr's Dr Gideon Fell novel The Hollow Man, also known as Three Coffins, or with Dan Simmons' novel also called The Hollow Man. Or the T. S. Eliot poem "The Hollow Men".

Hollow Man contains examples of:

  • And Some Other Stuff: Caine mixes nitroglycerine in the matter of five minutes or so without blowing himself to kingdom come - and apparently without using nitric acid.
  • Ankle Drag: Caine grabs Linda by the ankle in the elevator shaft.
  • Antagonist Title: The title refers to Caine, the turned-invisible man who became evil. It refers to him both literally (he became invisible) and figuratively (his soul is hollow).
  • Artistic License Biology: After the serum injected on the gorilla, it goes to the heart and from there on to the body... while in fact after the heart the blood goes to the lungs to oxygenate, after that return to the heart and finally distribute through the body.
  • Ax-Crazy: Caine becomes this when his megalomaniac tendencies begin to emerge.
  • Badass Longcoat: Linda's calf-length leather jacket.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Caine tells a well-known joke about Superman and Wonder Woman, with the Invisible Man note  caught in the middlenote . Possibly subverted, in that no one laughs. It only acts as foreshadowing of Caine's character.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Janice is the first of the main characters to die in Caine's rampage.
  • Body Horror: The incredibly-detailed transformation sequence.
  • Body in a Breadbox: The team finds Janice dead in a locker.
  • Bunny Ears Scientist: Dr. Sebastian Caine. His employers tolerate his eccentricities because he was remarkably talented, though when Caine failed to announce his breakthrough (after nearly a year of no progress), they warn him that should he fail to come up with results shortly, he will be fired.
  • Camera Spoofing: Caine does this with the thermal camera designed to keep track of him, allowing his escape.
  • Collapsing Lair: The Elaborate Underground Base gets destroyed in the film's finale.
  • Convection Schmonvection: The lab explodes, the elevator's bottom is covered in raging flames, yet the people climbing the ladder up the elevator shaft to leave have no problem with the heat.
    • Also regarding cold temperatures,
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: When Caine is strangling Linda in the corridor, Matthew comes from behind and hits Caine with a metal bar Just in Time before Linda runs out of air.
  • Cruella to Animals: Caine killed a dog in a fit of rage, after he found out about Linda and Matt's relationship.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Caine... adjusted to invisibility.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The credits sequence.
  • Disney Villain Death: Sebastian, onto a burning elevator shaft.
  • Dwindling Party: The proper thing to do when you're trapped in a sealed underground laboratory with a crazy killer, is to wander off on your own. And if you do manage to strike him down, put your weapon down beside him and turn your back...
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The lab where experiments take place.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Caine.
  • A God Am I: Sebastian goes as far as saying "How many times I have to tell you, Frank? You're not God. *I* am." Linda calls this back twice ("You think you're God? I'll show you God!" and "Not God. Not anymore.").
  • Genre Shift: It starts out in the Sci-Fi category, shifting to thriller as Caine starts going off the edge.
  • Hazardous Water: In one sequence, the invisible Sebastian drowns a man in his own pool. His wife, watching from the window, sees her husband in the water but not Caine, but the audience sees a very cool ghostly outline of Caine in the water.
  • Hot Scientist: Elisabeth Shue as a molecular biologist. Sarah, the vet, is pretty hot as well.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Fatal and non-fatal, using a crowbar. In Matt's case, it's non-fatal. In the case of Frank however, it's very fatal.
  • Impending Doom P.O.V.
  • Insufferable Genius: Although brilliant, Caine is remarkably arrogant, constantly referring to himself as "God". The other team members barely tolerate it.
  • Invisible Jerkass: Caine.
  • Invisible Streaker: Is it still indecent exposure if nobody can see what's exposed?
  • Invisibility
  • Killer Gorilla: The beginning of the movie has an invisible and vicious gorilla.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: During the climax, Caine is electrocuted, causing the invisibility to falter slightly, leaving him half-visible, with organs visible. A Chekhov's Gun is offered earlier in the film, in which the cure for a test gorilla's invisibility only worked after the team used a defibrillator on its heart.
  • Locked in a Freezer: Linda and Matt are trapped in a freezer. Matt is unconscious and bleeding severely, so she seals his wounds with duct tape, then rigs a magnetic device out of a defibrillator and assorted objects to open the door (which had been sealed from the outside).
  • Made of Iron: At the climax Caine gets burned with a flamethrower and his clothes are set on fire. However, Caine somehow managed to remove all the burning clothing and got through with apparently no injuries.
    • Although considering he's entirely invisible, including his body fluids (earlier he was shown vomiting into a toilet, but his vomit was also invisible) and his slight re-visualization at the climax never goes further than his muscles, it's quite possible that he does in fact have some 1st or 2nd degree burns, with either insanity or adrenaline helping him ignore the pain.
  • Mad Scientist: Caine.
  • Magic Countdown: The elevator tumbling down the shaft at the end takes extremely long to arrive at the heroes.
  • Man on Fire: Caine is set on fire during the climax, and quickly learns how very flammable his latex mask is.
  • Name of Cain: Caine.
  • Neck Snap: Caine offs Sarah this way.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Linda is fast asleep in bed with the windows wide open. Suddenly, the bed covers slip off of her and Caine crawls onto her bed, takes her underwear off, and begins to rape her. And then she wakes up with the bed covers on her.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Quite a few.
    • The walk-in freezer which can be locked from the outside (walk-in freezers are always specifically designed NOT to do this, most in fact have doorknobs on both sides if they can even close at all while someone is in it).
    • The elevator whose emergency brake cannot stop the elevator from falling.
    • An underground laboratory, full of hazardous chemicals, with only one exit. Which is an elevator ...
  • Not Quite Dead: Quite a few times.
  • Painful Transformation
  • Power Perversion Potential: Made explicit when the invisible Dr. Caine rapes his female neighbor.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    • "Go to hell." Said by Linda to Sebastian before she kicks the elevator brake and sends Sebastian falling to his doom.
    • "You know ... I've always admired your feistiness." Said by Caine to Sarah before killing her with a Neck Snap.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: While the team performed extensive tests on animal subjects, Caine thought the secret to reversing it could be unlocked using a human test subject, nominating himself. This proves to be ill advised.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil
  • Rasputinian Death: During the film's final third, Sebastian is beaten, burned and electrocuted but keeps coming back.
  • Required Secondary Powers: The first problem is outlined when Caine screams that he can't block the strong ambient lights because his eyelids and arms are invisible. The problem of how he is able to see with invisible retinas is not addressed, but then, it never is.
  • See the Invisible: The invisibility process doesn't stop Caine from showing up on thermal cameras. He is also accidentally revealed just prior to an attack by the smoke from his victim's cigarette. In the climax, the heroes throw around paint to try and make him visible, or at least make sure his footprints show up.
  • Sensor Suspense: The team makes extensive use of heat sensors when trying to locate Caine inside the underground lab.
  • Serial Killings, Specific Target: In Hollow Man 2, a politician used the fruits of the research from the first movie to turn a Sociopathic Soldier into an invisible assassin. The assassin killed off the politician's political rivals, then killed random civilians to make it seem like the work of a serial killer. This is only relevant in the backstory; the main plot revolves around the invisible man becoming even crazier and out of control because of the lethal side effects of the invisibility serum.
  • Slow-Motion Fall: Caine during his Disney Villain Death, falling down the elevator shaft in slow motion.
  • Telepathic Sprinklers: Downplayed. When Linda triggers the sprinkler to make Caine visible, all other sprinklers in the corridor get activated as well.
  • Villain Protagonist: Caine.
  • Visible Invisibility: Even Caine's vomit is invisible.
  • What You Are in the Dark / G.I.F.T.: Sebastian concludes that he might as well molest, rape, kill people, and scare children if he can escape the consequences by being invisible.
    Sebastian: It's amazing what you can do when you don't have to look at yourself in the mirror.
  • Window Pain: Caine throws in the window of Linda's apartment when he sees her making out with Matthew.
  • With Due Respect:
    Sebastian: Well, your objections have been duly noted and summarily overruled.
    Sarah: Yes, Sir!
    Sebastian: How come when you say "Yes, Sir" it kinda sounds like "Fuck you!"
    Sarah: Practice!
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Of the "most likely intentional for the sake of horror" variety-the woman who Caine raped is never seen or really mentioned again. The remainder of Caine's descent into madness can be viewed in different ways, based on whether or not he killed her (there's little evidence either way). Although, a draft of the script reveals that the woman was only raped.
  • White Shirt of Death: Sarah wears a bright blouse when meeting her destiny in a pool of blood.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Caine was a bit off-kilter to start, but when his visibility went, so did his inhibitions.
  • X-Ray Sparks: When Caine accidentally touches some live wires in the corridor, his skeleton is flashing for a short moment as he convulses in pain.

Alternative Title(s): Hollow Man 2

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