Sunday, June 1, 2014

Movie #256: Hollow Man

Hollow Man is a 2000 horror flick directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, and Josh Brolin.

A team of scientists are working on making living things invisible (there's some waffle about "phase shifts" and they use the word "quantum" a lot, which is how you can tell it's post 1999). The lead scientist, Sebastian Caine (Bacon) drives a Porsche and is reckless, brash, and arrogant. He's also formerly the lover of one of the other leads, Lynn McKay (Shue) who is now involved with the other lead scientist, Matt Something or Other (Brolin). And it's easy to see why; Matt is a decent guy and apparently the sex is great, because Shue and Brolin have, like, four or five sex or pre-sex or post-sex scenes. Caine, meanwhile, outright says he's God, and he doesn't seem to be kidding.

So they figure out how to reverse the invisibility process without killing their subject (a badly mistreated gorilla), but when the time comes to present this to the Pentagon science guys, Caine lies and says they still haven't figured it out. And rather than fucking contradict him and say "Um, I don't know what he's on about, but we totally did this with a gorilla," McKay and Matt play along. This proves to be a mistake.

Caine goes on to test the process on himself, and become the Invisible Rapist, and finally discovers that McKay is banging Matt, and then graduates to Invisible Slasher and murders everyone except the lovers, who manage to escape the underground research facility in a storm of fire.

OK, so let's discuss the good stuff. The special effects are pretty awesome (got a nom for a Best Visual Effect Oscar, in fact). You can see the stirrings of greatness in Brolin, and Bacon is always fun to watch. He makes a great villain. I like Elisabeth Shue, but I agree with +Dirty Heart; she can seem pretty one-note (her performance in Mysterious Skin was a lot better, but then, so was the movie). I like slasher movies, and within the context of a slasher movie I think this is a decent one in terms of murders and letting you spend some time with the characters before they die. Oh, and people act really stupidly all the way through (see earlier comment about not calling out Caine when he outright lies and falsifies research; that kind of thing continues).

Now the bad: Holy shit, this movie is rapey as shit. Caine literally sexually harasses McKay in every scene they're in, and once he's invisible it gets worse. The proper response to him post-invisibility should have been to lock him in a room, because he's obviously incapable of remaining objective. He sneaks up on the lab veterinarian (Kim Dickens), opens her shirt and sucks her nipple, and she's pretty obviously aware of what happened, but she doesn't call him on it. And you could make all kinds of arguments for why this kind of thing happens, but the way it reads is just weirdly, creepily complicit. Caine is a douchebag, and everyone knows it, so if this was more skillfully handled you could see it as metacommentary on tactic acceptance of alpha-male fuckheads, but I don't give this movie any credit for that kind of nuance. It's a slasher flick with a side order of rape (the scene where Caine murders the aforementioned vet is the only one where he murders a woman and you get to see it; the other two times it's a jump-scare and then cut away), and she begs for her life before he tranquilizes her, strokes her face rapily and then breaks her neck. Oh, and all that happens in a puddle of blood.

The sad thing is that you can see that most of these people are capable of more. Verhoeven gave us Robocop and Basic Instinct (and also Showgirls, but y'know). Brolin, Bacon, and Shue are all good actors. This movie has some good scares and some potentially pleasant creep, but it always gets sexual in a not-fun way, but it doesn't have the gravitas to actually say anything about sexual violence.

My grade: D
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Honeymoon in Vegas