At a top-secret military lab, a group of brilliant young scientists have just unlocked the secret of invisibility. Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon), the team’s arrogant leader, ignores the risks and decides to test the dangerous procedure on himself – only to discover his fellow scientists (Elisabeth Shue and Josh Brolin) are unable to reverse the effect.
Working around the clock, Caine’s colleagues struggle to devise an antidote. But Sebastian’s intoxication with his newfound power is growing, and he’s come to believe his colleagues may be a threat to his very existence.
Move over “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” there’s a contender in town vying for the infamous mantel of worst picture of all time. As my cousin said to me halfway through the screening, “This is a bad movie.” Understated, but succinct. It is, indeed, a bad movie – perhaps one of the worst I can remember. Of course, it has a huge special effects budget, which occasionally impresses. For the first time in movie history, we see a rat being grabbed, his little body caving in as if squeezed by a vise, then eaten by an invisible carnivore. For its intended audience, that will be cool. For those still not completely desensitized by moviedom’s excessive savagery, it will be a stomach-turner. There is some effective imagery depicting a solution injected into the arm of an invisible ape that streams along its intravenous system. But, although the visual of a skinless body may be tolerable to premed students, watching a man contort in agony sans outer covering begins to make scenes of a gobbled-up rodent look tame. Of late, we have seen some spooky movies, (“Sixth Sense”), that use eeriness rather than slasher brutality to unnerve the audience. Director Verhoeven (“Total Recall” “Starship Troopers”), however, returns to the more gory and brutal antics of ‘70s fright flicks such as “Friday the 13th,” where nearly every character is sadistically executed. Here, one man is drowned in his pool by the invisible scientist. Each time the victim struggles to the surface to cry out for help, Dr. Nutcase forces him below with the aid of his new superhuman strength. (Why does he now have superhuman strength? Well, now see, that’s one of those old plausibility questions we audience members are not supposed to ask.) Then, a woman is raped (off camera, thank God); another woman is strangled; another character has his head bashed in (lots of blood); another is speared; while another is knocked down into a pool of blood, then has her neck broken. Doesn’t all this sound delightful? Yumm, pass the popcorn. But the goriness, the animal brutality, and the tortuous killing are not the ingredients that make this slop a rival for worst film of all time. It’s everything else! Despite a huge budget and experienced thespians, it’s a jaw-dropper. You sit there stunned that such ineptness has made it out of the script reader’s office and into the local cineplex. The asinine and profane dialogue, the ludicrous plot, and the unredeemable acting make this nearly as fun as tooth extraction. The people portrayed are supposed to be scientists, yet each looks and acts like a third-year undergraduate. They’re hip. They’re good looking. But scientific? You’ll find more credible characters on the deck of Captain Kirk’s Enterprise. Even poor Elisabeth Shue, one of my favorite actresses because she, like Sandra Bullock, is easy to look at and usually vulnerable, sweet, and approachable. But, in this film, she wants to be Sharon Stone – tough, profane and coarse. Mopped with the worst hairdo since Frankenstein’s bride, and outfitted by what I presume is the medium’s first blind clothier, Shue stumbles about as if questioning, “Where am I supposed to be looking?” I didn’t buy her as a scientist in “The Saint” and I still don’t. She rarely uses a sentence that doesn’t contain a profanity or one or the other of the two major obscenities. Why is it every major actor on the scene today seems limited to these few expressions when conveying fear, disgust or determination? I’m not sure I can answer that, but I know that word limited has something to do with it. Let’s talk about the film’s language. Forgive me for putting these words in your head, but your teens are going to want to see this film. I think you should realize the force of its content. 41 uses of the F-word. 20 uses of the S-word. 14 uses of God’s name followed by a curse. All of the performers are guilty of using each of these offensive expressions – along with the misuse of Christ’s name and other sundry obscenities. In James Whale’s 1933 version of “The Invisible Man,” Claude Rains begins as a sensitive, kind-hearted scientist devoted to his work. But the power he gains from his concealment, and the chemicals used to make him invisible, drive him mad. He was not a villain, but he became one. He is a figure of pathos. Whereas, Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Caine is not only snobbish and unapproachable, he is a deviant who spies on unsuspecting women, bullies his co-workers and presumes to be the scientific community’s newest god. There’s no dimension to the role. He’s a jerk who goes insane. Why? Who knows? Who cares, so long as we can see a rat squished and chomped to bits. Evidently, character development, like plot conception, was not a prerequsite for the making of this movie. And theme? Well, there is no theme. The film becomes so ludicrous, so over the top, that this viewer wonders if it’s a horror parody. But isn’t a spoof supposed to be humorous? If so, the comedy here must be conceptional. For the screening audience didn’t laugh with its mood, but at its absurdity. Unlike horror films of the ‘30s and ‘40s, which were actually morality plays – good vs. evil parables – this monstrosity has no redeeming value. It’s not scary. It’s not thoughtful. And, it certainly is not well produced. “Hollow Man” is the perfect title for this scanky drivel. Like cotton candy made with soured ingredients, it melts into nothingness, leaving a putrid taste. I seldom reproach filmmakers with such vigor. After all, no one sets out to make a bad movie. But “Hollow Man” stole my time. In the movie theater, that is the unforgivable sin.