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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 is a 2000 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:

  • Alone with the Psycho: A truly horrific example: Caine's neighbor is raped by the invisible psycho and never finds out what truly happened to her.
  • 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).
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  • 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 turning himself from an arrogant but relatively harmless Jerkass to an outright monstruos killer. Though some hints suggest he wasn't particularly sane to begin with.
  • Badass Longcoat: Linda's calf-length leather jacket.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Caine killed a dog in a fit of rage, after he found out about Linda and Matt's relationship.
  • 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 Lawyer: Dr. Sebastian Caine. His employers tolerated his eccentricities because he was remarkably talented, though when Caine failed to announce his breakthrough (after nearly a year of no progress), they warned him that should he fail to come up with results shortly, he would 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.
  • 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.
  • Fan Disservice: We do get to see Sarah's exposed breasts, but given that it's when Caine is molesting her while she's asleep, it's deeply disturbing. Also, Caine's across-the-street neighbor (Rhona Mitra) who's less than diligent about closing her blinds as she changes clothes. After a few scenes of tease, we get to see some actual nudity. . . right as Caine attacks and (possibly) rapes her.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Sebastian has a playful and chummy demeanor even while taunting his victims.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Isabelle, a member of a normally herbivorous race (gorillas), messily devouring a rat while under the invisibility serum foreshadows how much the serum is really a Psycho Serum and the corrosive effects it would have on the human mind.
    • Before going through the final stage of invisibility, Caine responds to a question by reciting a crude joke involving Superman, Wonder Woman and the Invisible Man. The joke actually foreshadows how corruptable Caine is; like Superman in the joke, Caine uses his powers to successfully rape his neighbour and get away with it.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Caine. Started out as just a scientist on a military project (albeit an extremely brilliant one). Ended up a an invisible, sociopathic murder and (probable) rapist.
  • 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.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Inverted. Caine's coworkers are finishing lunch and chatting about what they'd do if they were invisible (or what they think Sebastian Caine would do), complete with misgivings about the project, this experiment, and so on. After they've all left, one empty chair turns and rolls back from the table, exactly as if, say, an invisible man had just stood up from it.
  • Insufferable Genius: Although brilliant, Caine is remarkably arrogant, constantly referring to himself as "God". The other team members barely tolerate it.
  • Invisible Jerkass: Caine. Though the film hints that it may not entirely be his fault; the incident with the invisible gorilla suggests the serum has deleterious effects on the mind.
  • Invisible Streaker: Is it still indecent exposure if nobody can see what's exposed? Though on thermal cameras, it's obvious Caine is, shall we say, swinging in the wind.
  • Invisibility: What the team were working on, and the root of all conflict in the film. Notably, it's left nebulous if the invisibility formula itself pushed Caine into complete sociopathy, or if it was just the power of "not having to look at himself in the mirror anymore."
  • Jerkass: Even before becoming invisible Caine wasn't exactly the nicest guy in the world as he was egotistical, narcissist and rude.
  • Killer Gorilla: The beginning of the movie has an invisible and vicious gorilla, likely to foreshadow the negative psychological effects of the invisibility serum.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: During the climax, Caine is electrocuted, causing the invisibility to falter slightly. It leaves him half-visible and stretched between the two quantum phases, in obvious pain.. 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 (and was falsely interpreted as a positive result by the team).
  • 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 have some severe burns, with either insanity or adrenaline helping him ignore the pain.
  • Mad Scientist: Caine's a classic example, racing the project forward after only one positive test, using himself as a guinea pig, and being a complete sociopath even before the invisibility serum starts corroding his mind.
  • 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: Caine manages to keep rising from the dead over and over again once invisible. Even the beginnings of the serum's failure (trapping him between two quantum phases) doesn't even slow him down.
  • Only Sane Man: Frank briefly plays this part during the climax, constantly shouting for people to not wander off on their own and being ignored, before he himself joins the overall stupidity and turns his back on the door he's supposed to be watching.
  • Painful Transformation: The first clue that the serum may not be all it's cracked up to be in humans is when, injected with it, Caine starts screaming in agony just as the effects become (in)visible...
  • Pet the Dog: Caine has a small one right when he decides to inject himself with the serum so that the rest of team won't be held accountable if anything goes wrong.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Implied when Caine and Linda (when they were a couple) apparently had conversations about what it would be like to have sex with/while invisible. 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 as Drama: Sebastian rapes a woman he spies on while invisible, and fondles Sarah's breast and pinches her nipple while she's asleep in her chair (making her think it was just an erotic dream at first).
  • 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.
  • Sanity Slippage: Caine was an egomaniac to begin with, who elected to try the serum out himself for nebulous reasons, but mostly because he thought it would be fun. After the reversion serum doesn't work, he's stuck being invisible, and ever-more difficult experiments are attempted to revert him. Finally, he goes completely nuts, indulging in all his darkest impulses. Lampshaded by Matt.
    Matt: Was it the serum that fucked you up, or was it the power?
  • 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, Sarah throws around blood 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.
  • Slasher Movie: This film becomes this when Caine becomes Ax-Crazy and started killing people one by one.
  • Slow-Motion Fall: Caine during his Disney Villain Death, falling down the elevator shaft in slow motion.
  • The Sociopath: Caine was initially a brilliant but extremely arrogant and selfish scientist. After becoming invisible, having no need to worry of his acton's consequences since he can't be seen, he turns into a ruthless, psychopathic and petty murderer and it's strongly implied that in case he had gotten away at the end he'd have become a Serial Killer and/or a Serial Rapist.
  • Telepathic Sprinklers: Downplayed. When Linda triggers the sprinkler to make Caine visible, all other sprinklers in the corridor get activated as well.
  • Too Dumb to Live: People act like they want to be killed. Sebastian's employer finds the phone line mysteriously cut and doors in his house mysteriously moving right after he's told about the invisible man and isn't even slightly suspicious, but he might be excused since they might not have told him that Sebastian escaped the laboratory, but Sebastian's colleagues have no excuse. When Sebastian escapes the first time they don't revoke his access code, and don't do it the second time either despite him showing to be willing and able to sabotage their tech, making it easy for Sebastian to trap them by revoking theirs. In the climax they keep splitting the party, even after it starts resulting in their deaths, and they only sporadically check their thermal visors insted of putting them on immediately, even when they are actively hunting Sebastian (noticeably they are specifically made so they can switch between normal and thermal vision, so there's just no reason not to put them on), and by the time Matt realizes it Sebastian heated the room so that they are no longer effective, and for some reason after leaving the room he doesn't put it on again despite it being reliable once again. Frank takes the cake, being impaled by a crowbar he could have easily seen because he turned his back on the door he had to watch and didn't turn back despite his colleagues screaming about the danger.
  • Villain Protagonist: Caine is the main viewpoint character for most of the film, and we follow him through many of his increasingly despicable and villainous acts.
  • 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.
  • 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 and a deleted scene 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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