The only reason I saw The Hollow Man was simply because I could see it for free. I think I saw it on Crackle a while ago, and recently re-watched it because I could see it for free and wondered if it would make a good film for Speculative Fiction Saturday. Clearly the existence of this post answers that question with a “yes”.
The Hollow Man has things working for and against it that are pluses and minuses at the same time. First, it is directed by Paul Verhoeven. If you aren’t familiar with him, think the original Robocop and Starship Troopers. He directed both of them, and if I were to write about those films, which I might, I would say that they are full of violence, but done in a satirical way. Verhoeven tends to show so much violence that I feel that he is making a sort of ironic statement with it, and honestly, I think it kind of works.
Now, this is where the argument for “is there too much violence in cinema” begins, and I really don’t want to write about that. I honestly think that Verhoeven does go overboard with his violence, but I don’t feel that it is overdone with The Hollow Man. In all honesty, there are some scenes in it that could have been a lot worse, but I will get to that.
From what I can tell, The Hollow Man looks to be some retelling of H.G. Wells science-fiction novel, The Invisible Man, and the only experience I had with that was a radio play that I read in grade school. I remember that story was about a man named Griffin, who obtains invisibility and because a psycho with it. The Hollow Man is about a man who also becomes invisible and follows the same path.
One of the things that I like about The Hollow Man is that it attempts to show the psychology of someone who has turned invisible. Now, before Sebastian Caine, played by Kevin Bacon, gets a hold of this serum, he kind of already has this God complex, so I can’t say whether or not the invisibility drove him to be a jerk. In a lot of super-hero stories, the villain starts off as a jerk, but a scientific accident make him a real jerk (think Dr. Doom or the Green Goblin). In Caine’s defense, the idea of being stuck invisible is somewhat frightening, and could drive a stable man into instability with time. Then there is subtle things like how it is difficult to go to sleep when one can see through one’s eyelids.
The Hollow Man could have been a very powerful character-driven science fiction story, but it sacrifices the psychology for special effects and horror-movie action. For some reason, the invisibility makes ones internal organs become visible, which is an effect never really seen in any film except The Mummy. The effect is impressive, and if Caine’s descent into madness was made a more prominent part in the story, The Hollow Man would score high marks in all areas.
As I said before, it could have been worse. There is a scene where Caine rapes a woman who just steps out of the shower, and this could have done in a most gratuitous way. In my opinion, rape is one of those things that never looks good on film, even in a scene that is supposed to be terrifying. The issue with The Hollow Man is that I believe that someone who could turn invisible and ruled without morals would try this.
But what is the whole point of this story? Is it that we should fear having the power of invisibility? That some things we just aren’t meant to have? Or is the story of The Hollow Man about alienation? Perhaps someone can write a really good invisible man story.