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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 anymore."
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, Kim Dickens, Greg Grunberg, 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 direct-to-video sequel, Hollow Man 2, was released in 2006 and starred Christian Slater.

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.
  • Always Someone Better: Sebastian to Matt, which Sebastian loves to rub his face in. Not that Matt seems to disagree.
    Matt: A true genius, like Sebastian, can get from A to D without needing the B and C; I gotta have the B and C.
  • 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 is injected into the gorilla, it goes to the heart and from there on to the body... while in fact after the heart the blood first goes to the lungs to oxygenate, after that returns 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 monstrous killer. Though there are some hints that suggest he wasn't particularly sane to begin with.
  • Badass Longcoat: Linda's calf-length leather jacket.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Caine kills a dog in a fit of rage, after he finds out about Linda and Matt's relationship.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Caine's rampage is stopped with his death but everyone except Linda and Matt are now dead.
  • 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 as first a gorilla, and then Caine, are rendered invisible.
  • Body in a Breadbox: The team finds Janice dead in a locker.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Dr. Sebastian Caine. His employers tolerate his eccentricities because he's remarkably talented, though when Caine fails 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'll be fired.
  • Camera Spoofing: Caine does this with the thermal camera designed to keep track of him, allowing his escape.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Linda when waking from a bad dream (which may not have been a dream) she was having about Caine invading her bedroom.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The identification system of the elevator is showed several times in the first part of the film. In the climax, it becomes an important plot device because Caine removes the access rights of everybody but himself.
    • Early on in the film, in the process of returning to visibility, the invisible gorilla falls into cardiac arrest which led to the scientists using a defibrillator to revive it and complete the process. As it turns out, the electric shock was needed for the full process of returning to visibility, as Sebastian's attempt to do so without a defibrillator fails, while him getting electrocuted later on in the climax returns him to almost full visibility (except for his skin). It is also worth noting that during the gorilla's defibrillation it temporarily returns to full visibility with every shock administered, foreshadowing how important the electric shocks actually were.
    • The defibrillator used on test subjects when they go into cardiac arrest. When Sebastian locks Linda and Matt in a walk-in freezer, Linda makes a magnet out of one to unlock the door.
  • 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 escape have no problem with the heat.
    • Also regarding cold temperatures, as Linda and Matthew survive being locked in a cold freezer.
  • 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.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Caine is jealous of Linda's new boyfriend from the start. When he discovers that she's dating Matt, he becomes mad of jealousy (he kills a dog in a fit of rage). Then he decides to kill Linda and Matt, along with the rest of the team. His primary goal is to prevent them from warning the oversight committee, but jealousy certainly increased his resolve.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Caine... adjusted to invisibility.
  • Cut Phone Lines:
    • Caine cuts the phone line of the house of Dr. Kramer to prevent him from warning the military authorities.
    • Then he cuts the phone lines of the underground lab to prevent his colleagues from calling for help.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The credits sequence.
  • Disney Villain Death: Sebastian, onto a burning elevator shaft.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: In the freezer, Linda uses duct tape to stop bleeding from Matt's belly after Caine hurt him.
  • 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. Which makes it very easy for Caine to trap all his colleagues there, and pick them off one by one.
  • 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 rapes her.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Sebastian has a playful and chummy demeanor even while taunting his victims.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: In the climax, Linda uses a gas cylinder to make an improvised weapon that breathes fire. She uses it to fight Caine.
  • 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 corruptible Caine is; like Superman in the joke, Caine uses his powers to successfully rape his neighbor and get away with it.
    • This might have been unintentional, but at the beginning, Sebastian is singing along to Sunna's "Power Struggle", which possibly foreshadows his rampage at the end.
    You were meant to die
    Cause I was made to fly
  • 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 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.
  • Hero Antagonist: Linda and Matt to Sebastian's Villain Protagonist.
  • If You Die, I Call Your Stuff: When Caine is going to test the serum on himself, Janice tells that if he dies she will claim his car. Frank is shocked, because he thinks he should get the car.
  • I Will Show You X!: Used both as a Pre Ass Kicking One Liner and Ironic Echo. In a few scenes early in the movie Caine exposes his narcissism by calling himself "God", and when Linda attacks him with a makeshift flamethrower at the climax Caine yells out a pained "Oh, God!" reflexively as he stumbles around in flames.
    Linda: You want God? I'll show you God! [shoots him again with the flamethrower]
  • 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.
  • Implacable Man: Sebastian displays an uncanny level of resilience for an otherwise normal human man. He shrugs off things that should have killed or at least severely injured him, such as getting set on fire, hit over the head with a large crowbar and electrocuted.
  • 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 Caine would do), complete with misgivings about the project, the experiment, and so on. After they've all left, one empty chair turns and rolls back from the table, invokedexactly as if, say, an invisible man had just stood up from it.
  • Inhuman Eye Concealers: After the failure to return Caine to visibility, he's given a mask in order to make him easier to talk to - complete with a set of wraparound shades, though his isn't just to hide the mask's hollow-looking eyeholes, but also to protect his eyes from the ambient light his transparent eyelids can't keep out. Later, after Caine breaks out of the lab, this becomes part of a proper disguise.
  • 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 devouring a rat 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;" the gorilla who received the serum before him grew noticeably more violent.
  • Jerkass: Even before becoming invisible, Caine wasn't exactly the nicest guy in the world as he was egotistical, narcissistic and rude.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: At the start, Caine seems like an egotistical but charming genius who cares about his team behind his snarky attitude. After becoming invisible, Caine develops into a really awful and abrasive person, reaching the point of sexually assaulting his neighbour, killing his mentor and then moving onto his coworkers. While the serum likely screwed up his mind, it implied deep down he was always a violent and unstable sociopath who hid it behind a veneer of charm.
  • Killer Gorilla: The beginning of the movie has an invisible and vicious gorilla, likely to foreshadow the negative psychological effects of the invisibility serum.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Of course, once they realize that they are locked in the lab with an invisible psycho, the researchers decide to split up (Matt and Carter leave the group to track Caine; later Sarah fetches medical supplies alone to treat Carter, etc.).
  • 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 Linda 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).
  • MacGyvering: In the freezer, Linda creates an electromagnet with some of the few objects she can find. She uses it to unlock the door.
  • 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 an extremely long time to arrive for the heroes.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Technically, Caine is nude for the majority of the film, but Kevin Bacon's... bacon is seen via thermal imaging and while he's turning invisible, as part of the full digital body double.
  • Man on Fire: Caine is set on fire during the climax, and quickly learns how very flammable his latex mask is.
  • Mood Whiplash: In a span of a couple of scenes, Caine goes from pranking a couple of kids to terrorizing and forcing himself on a female neighbor of his.
  • 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. How much is excused by this being a top-secret military project run out of a plausibly deniable lab with more emphasis on security than safety is debatable.
    • 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 that requires a secret code to get OUT of the lab...
  • 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, having been 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 the 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: The invisible Sebastian 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). Then he rapes a woman he was spying on.
  • 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: The film turns into one 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 action'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. He might be excused since he might not have been told that Sebastian escaped the laboratory, but Sebastian's colleagues have no excuse.
    • When Sebastian escapes the first time his colleagues don't revoke his access code, and they don't do it the second time he gets out either, despite him by now showing that's he's willing and able to sabotage their tech; it makes 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 instead 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). 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: Sebastian concludes that he might as well molest, rape, kill people, and scare children if he can escape the consequences by being invisible.
  • Window Watcher: Caine stalks Linda and watches her through her apartment window.
  • With Due Respect:
    Sebastian: Well, your objections are 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.
    • The fate of the remaining test animals isn't addressed at the end of the film, but it's likely they were all killed in the ending lab explosion.
  • 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