Kevin Bacon goes from 0 to pervert in record time, groping a co-worker because he can via Hollow Man’s coarse narrative. Paul Veerhoven helms a film that is not only gracious with its visual effects but meandering with it story and attempted scientific parable.
Sebastian Caine (Bacon) takes his rebellious act into the world of invisibility, all funded by the Department of Defense. His research has turned gorillas, mice, and dogs invisible for the sake of foreshadowing, driving many of them to the brink of insanity. Without government knowledge, Caine sets himself up as the first human to go out from line of sight, and without a plan to bring him back, he stays there.
Hollow Man has not aged well, by no means a stab at the visual effects which tend to hold their own. Back when they were new, certain elements were forgiven, including often hilarious science chatter between the cast, sub-par performances from capable actors, and a slew of horror movie tropes. Despite attempts to reason with the viewer, everyone splits up for the finale, picked off individually like any basic slasher.
Exciting as it is, Hollow Man degrades itself. Instead of being psychological, Veerhoven’s penchant for blood and guts overshadow what could have been something with purpose. The directing choice is proper: No one would have the gall to depict a gruesomely uncomfortable rape scene with such alarming detail. The scene works for its effective segue into Caine’s mindset, that turning point which allows him no return.
Past that, Hollow Man turns Caine into a super human who endures torching, blows to the head, and hilariously long falls. All of the build up is for naught as his visual effects-dominated rampage runs at full capacity.
The piece is far more effective as Caine toys with his co-workers, peering on his ex Linda (Elisabeth Shue), spinning around the room with only his voice for direction, and losing the mindset of acceptable human behavior. Despite the transition being rapid fire for the sake of sex and gore, Caine moves down the mental chain logically as his condition spreads from days to weeks.
For the rest of the cast, their job is to sit back and stare at walls they believe are Caine, given quirky traits to identify them as characters and little else. Linda and Matt’s (Josh Brolin) romance feels included for its lightning rod appeal to finally break the covert star, sending him into total madness. Take it for what it is, but Claude Rains remains the definitive Invisible Man. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]
Mill Creek’s re-issue of Hollow Man comes on a double bill with the direct-to-video sequel. Sony previously released a Blu-ray of the film back in 2007 with an equal codec: AVC. This is likely the same master with marginal tweaks. Both suffer from clear signs of digital age, some overly compressed grain, and light filtering. The two transfers are going to be a wash for most.
Sony’s release does tend to be a hair brighter, slightly richer color bringing out the flesh tones with a little saturation. Mill Creek’s, by comparison, lacks full zest. Despite dense black levels, imagery lacks the needed color depth. Nothing rises above ordinary, making Hollow Man appear as if it had no color correction performed.
The print itself is fine, a speck or two hardly worth being worked up over. Cleanliness of the source can only account for so much. This director’s cut is two hours, and bundled with the sequel seems to put pressure on the encode which leads to extensive banding. Grain also feels heavier, certainly unnatural, possibly from the hints of sharpening being tossed around.
Medium shots lack the necessary resolution, often pale and mushy without definition. Close-ups are flattened with only a handful reproducing any appreciable detail. Even then, it never feels natural, tweaked digitally in an effort to bring out the material. Hollow Man needs a more modern scan before it becomes a high-def winner. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Video]
The only change in audio between the two releases is the codec. Sony used a (then) common PCM mix, Mill Creek going with DTS-HD. There are no audible differences, making this a mix with some slight age in the design, but still a fun listen. The track never goes for it all, moments of Bacon’s character wandering around throwing his voice directional, yet without the precision. Stereos and surrounds work together for the effect as opposed to just a surround. A moment in which Bacon snatches a fly out of the air has buzzing traveling through the soundfield, sharply done if still lacking all-out precision.
Showcase material begins around 1:41:30, lab explosions hearty with their LFE aggression, and action well placed. A sprinkler system is activated late, the water rushing through the available channels. Inside an elevator shaft, sounds begin to echo to give them additional weight while establishing the claustrophobic feel of the location. Cue a few more explosions with excellent rumbling capability, and this is a positive experience, if missing the intangibles. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
Mill Creek offers no extras – just the second movie – so hold on to the original release for those. [xrr rating=0/5 label=Extras]
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