Lunar Cycle - February 2020

Since I don’t have as much time to write longer reviews than I used to, I figured I would just post shorter reviews for horror/cult films that I feel deserve your attention. Expect these Lunar Cycle posts once per month.

INTO THE DARK: DOWN (2019) - ** out of ****

Directed By: Daniel Stamm

Starring: Matt Lauria, Natalie Martinez, Arnie Pantoja, Christina Leone, Diane Sellers

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 82 Minutes

Plot: A pair of coworkers get trapped in an elevator over a long weekend, but what at first promises to be a romantic connection turns nefarious as each party begins to reveal who they truly are.

Another month, another journey Into the Dark from Blumhouse and Hulu. This time it’s for the first season’s Valentine’s Day entry, DOWN - a film whose premise has been done to death, especially in recent years, but managed to have a interesting first half that quickly travels to predictable territory that makes everyone look stupid in the end. DOWN probably could and should have been better, but it plays things safe and just ends up feeling disappointing.

I won’t get too much into the story itself since it’s probably better not knowing than it is me going into detail about the film. I’ll just say that if you enjoyed both 2008’s P2 and 2010’s DEVIL, you’ll probably find something to enjoy in DOWN. The film pretty much focuses just one two characters, Jennifer and Guy, who are co-workers [yet strangers since they work in different departments inside the same building] who get stuck inside of an elevator the night before Valentine’s Day, ruining their respective plans. As two people would do inside of an elevator, the two characters share information about their lives as a way to know each other, eventually leading to a weak moment where both have sex to fill some time. Unfortunately, one person thinks of the sex as a one-time deal, while the other changes their tune when they feel rejected and want more when it comes to their new “relationship”.

This portion of the film [the first half] is the better part of DOWN, as it’s just a character study and dramatic look at two people who attempt a bond in order to pass time inside of a small elevator, hoping to be rescued. While it’s obvious this is all just the calm before the storm, at least we get a glimpse at the main characters in order for the audience to relate to each one. Jennifer is tough and independent, coming off a bad relationship she’s trying to remedy. Guy is a nice, caring dude who seems like a hopeless romantic. Watching the characters bond is really well done, as we get a sense of who they are and care about what’s going to happen with them and between them. It’s the perfect storytelling tool for a film like this and it works because I was really enjoying the film during these moments.

However, that all changed in the last half. I don’t think it’s a terrible second part of the film, to be honest. But it gets predictable to the point of almost insulting and silly, making me wonder why they bothered developing characters in the first place if they’re just gonna do things out of character later on. Truths are revealed and the characters portray themselves as almost caricatures. Jennifer, who seems like a smart woman, does really idiotic things as a narrative convenience. Guy is just over-the-top in his behavior. I mean, logically the story did do what’s expected. But considering how strong and smart the first half is, I think it could have been handled a bit more grounded in order to up the fear factor - which this film has none of, unfortunately.

I think why the narrative brings DOWN [get it?] the film is because the film’s message is flawed in its execution. DOWN is obviously tackling the #MeToo movement and toxic masculinity, which is perfectly fine. Considering how things switch in the second half, it definitely makes sense to use those specific social commentaries. But the storytelling doesn’t justify any of those commentaries since the characters are portrayed in ways that contradict both. The #MeToo angle is flawed because there’s no rape or sexual harassment going on here. The sex is consensual, especially when the person who believes it as a one-night stand was the one who initiated it. One-night stands are cool and while the reason why they’re both trapped in the elevator probably constitutes as kidnapping, the sexual aspect was completely willing. Now the toxic masculinity commentary can definitely have merit as the response to the “no strings” deal is a bit violent. But then the film wants you to sympathize with the villain, taking away that message too. Since this film was written and directed by men, maybe DOWN would have worked better from a female’s perspective? I wasn’t sure what this film was aiming for beyond its predictable cat-and-mouse chase in the final act. What did DOWN want me to get out of it besides what was on the surface? Truly baffling.

What makes DOWN even worth a look is the strong performances by Matt Lauria and Natalie Martinez, who carry the film the entire time even when their characters weren’t probably written ideally near the end. Both actors had already worked together on a show called Kingdom, who it made sense why they had so much chemistry with each other. Both easy on the eyes and extremely likable, DOWN would have been somewhat of a success regardless despite its dumbed down script. Even when things got silly, both actors played their roles like troopers and managed to make it all watchable while I was rolling my eyes at some of it. I hope they work together again in a stronger project.

As for the direction, I thought it was really good as well. Daniel Stamm has a lot of fans due to his work on 2010’s THE LAST EXORCISM and 2014’s 13 SINS and it’s easy to see why. The film is mostly shot inside of an elevator that slowly grows more claustrophobic as the characters begin to bond and then drift apart. The first half of the film is shot in typical elevator lights, making the scenes look perfectly natural and normal. But once truths come out, the lighting shifts to a dark red that resembles Hell - which is exactly what the characters are going through at this point and time. The cat-and-mouse chase sequences are well shot and have some suspense going for them. And while the film isn’t particularly gory, there is one cool death involving an elevator crushing someone and splitting them in half. While DOWN did feel more like a TV movie than some of the other entries I’ve watched, I thought it was visually pleasing and was paced very well. So nothing but positive words for Stamm and his direction here.

Overall, DOWN is a real mixed bag within the Into the Dark series on Hulu. With only two actors really being focused on within the entire runtime of the film, the first half dealing with character development was really well done, allowing me to invest in the characters and relate to each one on some level. Unfortunately, the film plays it too safe and quickly follows into predictable and silly territory that similar films like P2 had done better in a multitude of ways. The themes of #MeToo and toxic masculinity are pretty much in vain since both characters [and the screenwriter] do things that don’t really justify either one of those commentaries, making me wonder if a female perspective would have handled this material better and made DOWN feel more important than it tries to be. No one really forces themselves on the other. The villain is given scenes for the audience to sympathize with them. What is this film trying to say?

However, the performances by both Matt Lauria and Natalie Martinez are very strong, even when the characters do things that made me roll my eyes. They carried the film quite well. And Daniel Stamm’s direction is also very good, capturing the slow claustrophobic feeling of being trapped within an elevator, while presenting a nice elevator death that will have some people splitting in two. DOWN is a film that should have been better than it was considering how simple the narrative is. Might be worth a look if you want, but I’m probably taking the stairs next time.

INTO THE DARK: MY VALENTINE (2020) - *1/2 out of ****

Directed By: Maggie Levin

Starring: Britt Baron, Anna Lore, Benedict Samuel, Anna Akana, Sachin Bhatt, Tiffany Smith, Shaun Brown, Alan Chow, Ally Maki, Ruben Vernier

Genre: Thriller/Horror

Running Time: 79 Minutes

Plot: A pop singer’s artistic identity is stolen by her ex-boyfriend/manager and shamelessly pasted onto his new girlfriend/protege. Locked together late one night in a concert venue, the three reconcile emotional abuses of the past… until things turn violent.

Continuing with Into the Dark, we come to the newest episode - MY VALENTINE - a Valentine’s Day theme story really in name only [the main character’s name is Valentine] while it’s more focused on themes of toxic relationships, the downfalls of the music industry, and Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to abuse. You’d think all this commentary would help elevate your standard horror film. But you’d be wrong.

MY VALENTINE is probably the least interesting film that I’ve seen from this series, considering the subject matter is relevant and could be used to tell a relatable story. The film is based on the real life drama between musician Mars Argo and her lawsuit against producer Titanic Sinclair and his newest collaborator Poppy, that ended with Argo gaining back all the rights to the music Argo believed Sinclair & Poppy had stolen from her. Argo claimed Sinclair abused and manipulated her, as well as dumping her for lookalike Poppy, who she claims was styled after her. In this film. Valentine is Argo, Royal is Sinclair and Trezzure is Poppy - using similar themes of abuse and manipulation to clearly paint who are the protagonists and antagonists. 

Even not knowing what the film is based off of, the narrative does enough to make it clear that Valentine was wronged by her former producer and his new protege has stolen her gimmick. We see flashbacks of Valentine & Royal in happier times, building her musical career while also being intimate. But Royal soon grows controlling to the point that Valentine feels like she needs to get out. Out of revenge, Royal finds a lookalike and names her Trezzure, using Valentine’s song to make Trezzure a star. In the present, Royal is clearly unhinged, displeased with Trezzure’s ability to create her own music, begging Valentine to write for her as if he still has power over Valentine. Valentine is clearly traumatized by what Royal did to her, finding any way out of the situation, even if it involves violence. 

Unlike last year’s DOWN, the themes actually do work here. Royal is clearly a textbook abuser, manipulating everyone around him to get what he wants. Even though he hurt Valentine, he feels betrayed by her leaving him, which led to the creation of Trezzure. Valentine is still haunted by what Royal did to her, trying to move on with her life by taking back her identity and rights to the songs Royal stole from her. You also hear a voiceover from a motivational tape that Valentine uses to overcome her past, making her become emotionally stronger as the film goes. And Trezzure is a pop star with a lot of fans, but she’s clearly miserable being in a relationship with Royal. She’s in total denial about the abuse and the manipulation, only slowly opening her eyes when Royal does some bad things, as well as Valentine’s proof of what he had done to her personally that sound familiar to Trezzure’s own experience with him. Honestly, the whole abuse angle and both women overcoming it in their own way is the strongest aspect of MY VALENTINE story wise. You just want to see Royal get his in the end, and you won’t be disappointed.

However, there are other things with the story that just ruin the experience. Another theme that’s touched on is toxic fandom. A group of fans criticize Valentine during an act because they feel she stole Trezzure’s look and music, even though she had originated it. They think she’s a copycat and they bad mouth her on the internet or to other people during the concert because they feel entitled to defend their favorite artist. When Royal and Trezzure make their appearance at the club Valentine is performing at, these fans cater to their every need, even standing guard outside the exit door to make sure no one gets in or out as he “talks” to Valentine. Even an opening act couple believe Valentine is the wannabe, but they just let Royal deal with the mess. This time of fandom is everywhere when it comes to music, movies, and even politics. A good story could be created from this. But MY VALENTINE doesn’t do much with any of it after the first ten to fifteen minutes, making you wonder why these characters stuck around longer than they should have. The opening act couple play nothing but potential body count victims, while the fans don’t do anything at all. Just felt unnecessary.

And then there’s Royal himself, who is already a dirtbag for doing Valentine wrong and manipulating Trezzure in believing she was always the first pick in his heart. But the film doesn’t ground him as a simple abusing music producer who could be real scary just by being unsuspecting and subtle in his behavior towards each of his creations. Instead, MY VALENTINE makes him this manic and clearly unstable person who accidentally murders someone and instantly fascinates himself with death out of the blue. He records people dying and then gets upset when he couldn’t capture the sound of them dying, which he eventually does later. For a popular music producer who people actually know and interact with, he doesn’t hide his psychopathic and sociopathic tendencies well at all. Royal becomes a cartoon quite quickly and it just takes you out of the entire film. Hey, I’m sure there are people who behave like this in reality. But Valentine is so grounded as a character and the situation feels based in reality that his portrayal doesn’t seem like it fits in this world. Even Trezzure starts subtle at first, becoming more of a caricature as the film goes on. I get this is a horror film and most likely, people have to die. But Royal could have still been a grounded villain who eliminated those in his way without auditioning for The Riddler. I just thought it was silly and took away from the abuse angle that would have been more than enough to carry this film.

Speaking of grounded, Britt Baron [best known as Justine on GLOW] is wonderful as Valentine. I bought her every emotional beat in the story, from fear, to sadness, to anger, to relenting, and then to triumph. She never overdid her performance and made you sympathetic towards her character. The material should have been better, but Baron does the best she can and I liked her performance. I wish I could say the same Benedict Samuel as Royal, who started out okay but soon became a cartoon villain. The only thing he was missing was the twirling mustache. Samuel plays crazy well, but it belonged in a different film. Not once I was convinced this person could be a successful music producer without a single story coming out against him for something criminal. And with his performance, I wasn’t convinced that he could manipulate anyone, especially two young and talented women. He seemed to be having fun in the role, which is great. But I just didn’t feel it at all. We also have Anna Lore as Trezzure, who had her moments [especially when she was performing in music videos], but got pretty grating in the last half of the film. She had decent emotional beats in the first half of the film though and her best scenes were with Baron. The other actors don’t get to do much, which is a shame because I’m sure more could have been done with them.

What really saves MY VALENTINE is both the visuals and the soundtrack. Maggie Levin does a great job bringing a colorful film with energy at times. The music video segments were shot really cool, creating vibrant visuals and having some nice dance choreography that I could believe really existed on YouTube for a specific pop artist. Each one looked a bit different, although they all had a neon look to them, but it made the film pop for me. The scenes in the club weren’t as impressive, but they were shot well and the film was paced decently for its short running time. The soundtrack contains some nice original pop music that I could see teenagers flocking to on Apple Music or Spotify. The songs were catchy, fun, and current for today’s music market. I wish the story had this much attention, but what can you do?

Overall, MY VALENTINE is the worst installment of Hulu’s Into the Dark that I’ve watched so far. While the visuals pop out with their colors and the soundtrack is full of catchy pop music, the story itself brings the entire project down unfortunately. The theme of abuse and toxic relationships in romance and in business is fairly strong, especially since it’s based on the Mars Argo-Poppy deal with their producer, creating a sympathetic character in Valentine and slowly showing the effects of the abuse for both pop singers in the film. But instead of grounding the situation in reality, the antagonist loses his believability factor when he’s turned into a comic book villain who suddenly becomes fascinated by death in an over-the-top manner. The film gets fairly silly and I was taken out of it because of that. Plus, why bring up toxic fandom if you’re not going to do much interesting with that theme? Britt Baron does the best as she can, giving a likable performance as Valentine. The other actors didn’t do much for me [they weren’t terrible though], but I blame how their characters were written more than anything. If I was a teenager, maybe MY VALENTINE would have done more for me. But it doesn’t get a whole lotta love from me, making this installment one to keep in the dark.

GANJA & HESS (1973) - *** out of ****

Directed By: Bill Gunn

Starring: Duane Jones, Marlene Clark, Bill Gunn, Sam Waymon, Leonard Jackson, Candece Tarpley, Richard Harrow, Mabel King

Genre: Horror/Drama/Supernatural/Vampires

Running Time: 112 Minutes

Plot: After being stabbed with an ancient, germ-infested knife, a doctor’s assistant finds himself with an insatiable desire for blood.

I had first heard of GANJA & HESS on Shudder's 2019 documentary HORROR NOIRE: A HISTORY OF BLACK HORROR, which is quite great if you haven’t checked it out already. I didn’t even know GANJA & HESS inspired a remake by Spike Lee in 2014 called DA SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS. The film was way below my radar due to not many really talking about the film until recently, making me curious as to why it had escaped me for so long. With February being Black History Month, I figured it was the right time to sit down and check it out. It was then that I could see why GANJA & HESS has started to gain attention only within the last decade. Unlike other films of the time like BLACULA and BLACKENSTEIN, GANJA & HESS isn’t a blaxploitation film. It’s an arthouse drama with supernatural elements at play every now and then, giving audiences a serious look at the black culture of its time while spinning a different web when it comes to vampire storytelling. It’s not perfect and has flaws, but the film is one I’m glad I finally got to watch.

I won’t go too much into detail about the film’s story and what all the symbolism within it refers to. But there is a strong commentary running through the film when it comes to class and religion. Dr. Hess is a well renown anthropologist and has a lot of money, even spending time at upper class functions [mainly consisting white people] and sticking out within his own community due to how well he dresses and behaves. He’s sort of assimilated into a culture that wouldn’t have accepted him years prior, while studying history of his roots in Africa to maintain a level of identity within the culture he was born into.

There’s also commentary on addiction, as Hess is an addict prior to wanting to drink blood due to some ancient germ that makes him immortal. The blood feasting only increases this addition, as withdrawal leads to an annoying buzzing sound with tribal drums beating loudly. This is a clear symbolism of cold turkey and needing that fix before it drives you mad with physical and mental pain.

There is also an element of religion at play here, as addiction and drinking blood from people that have been murdered are most likely considered sins anywhere you go. Hess has a driver who is a minster at a local church, but he never enters the place until the very end when he’s hit rock bottom with his blood addiction and is looking for guidance. It’s almost as if writer and director Bill Gunn was clearly pointing out that good will always triumph over evil, feeling that worshipping a higher power will lead you down a righteous path even if you stepped off that path for a while to commit horrible things. Even science is no match to church, which has been a commentary for years that people still debate about.

Without spoiling things, GANJA & HESS is really a drama that tells an interesting love story between two people that probably should have fallen in love to begin with. Hess meets Ganja, the wife of Hess’ former boss who inflicted him with vampirism to begin with. Ganja looks for her husband, not realizing he had committed suicide after thinking he had murdered Hess. Ganja and Hess just click, as Hess provides Ganja the attention she craves while still maintaining a certain lifestyle while Ganja provides Hess that distraction for his loneliness and addiction. Even when Ganja learns the truth, she accepts it because she’s comfortable with where she’s at, even though the vampirism issue does strain their relationship slowly and surely. It’s not a love story we can really root for or understand if we’re not in their shoes. But it’s intriguing, especially by the film’s conclusion, when you realize that sometimes love just isn’t enough when the bodies and secrets keep piling up.

Bill Gunn directs a rough looking film, only because he only had $350,000 to spend and was an inexperienced filmmaker at the time. It looks like a student feature film one would do in college at times, looking pretty basic with a lot of grain and scratches on the film. But Gunn also manages to overlap imagery over certain scenes to create this provocative and avant-garde surreal feeling that borders on psychedelic, probably matching the feeling of addiction and the high one gets when that thirst is quenched. The blood does look a bit fake, but I can overlook it due to the budget and inexperience, since you still get the visual feeling from the “gorier” moments of the film. The exterior shots are quite stunning at times, capturing a large and private environment that still manages to be claustrophobic for the main characters.

I think the one big negative I have for GANJA & HESS is its pacing. The first and last acts are fine, but the middle portion of the film just feels too long for its own good and just drags. This middle portion is really the love aspect of the film, as both Ganja and Hess court each other. I feel ten to fifteen minutes probably could have been cut to get to the necessary points sooner.

I also have issue with some of the direction with the actors themselves. I’ll get to the performances in a bit, but I feel like the characters didn’t react in believable ways at times. Ganja, in particular, didn’t seem all that concerned that her husband was missing, shacking up with Hess fairly easily after some passive-aggressive flirting. When she does learn the truth, she’s upset at first but then just shrugs it off and moves on with Hess anyway. Maybe being in love surpassed everything else, but it just didn’t connect with me on a personal level.

The performances, however, are very good. Duane Jones, of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD fame, is great as Hess. He captures the laziness and sloth that addiction places upon an individual, while also believably acting suave and charming prior to feeding upon a victim. I thought his performance need the end, when he hits rock bottom, is really great stuff and you feel sorry for his predicament. Jones also shared some nice simmering chemistry with Marlene Clark, who plays Ganja. Unlike Jones, Clark gets to be energetic and sassy right from the start, becoming the catalyst to liven up Jones’ performance and pushing him to react to things. The performance slowly changes though, as Clark soon starts taking some of Hess’ mannerisms by the end, creating this full circle effect for each character. Both of them carry this film really well and make for a pretty cool onscreen couple.

And quick mention to the musical score, which is strange but well-crafted. Tribal beats, gospel singing, and this constant hum and buzz throughout that gets louder when things go terribly wrong. It’s really thought out and adds atmosphere.

Overall, I’m glad to have finally sat down and watched GANJA & HESS - a film that was lost for a while due to being more serious and arthouse than the blaxploitation fare around that time. Yet, GANJA & HESS is the one that resonates above the rest. The commentaries on addiction, religion and class are subtle, turning what could have been an offbeat vampire tale into something meaningful and human. Bill Gunn’s direction, while showing his inexperience when it comes to pacing and directing his actors into providing logical reactions to certain situations that took me out of the film somewhat, still manages to be strong enough look provocative and psychedelic at times to capture a mood his contemporaries weren’t creating. Duane Jones and Marlene Clark are excellent as both Hess and Ganja respectively, carrying the film as well they can through their chemistry and by grounding a vampire story into something I’m sure many have and could relate with. It’s not a home run, but GANJA & HESS is definitely worth a look if you want to see atypical horror film that has something human to say beyond the supernatural.

HOLLOW MAN (2000) - *** out of ****

Directed By: Paul Verhoeven

Starring: Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens, Rhona Mitra, Greg Grunberg, Joey Slotnick, Mary Randle, William Devane

Genre: Horror/Science Fiction

Running Time: 119 Minutes

Plot: Cocky researcher, Sebastian Caine, is working on a project to make living creatures invisible and he’s so confident he’s found the right formula that he tests it on himself and soon begins to vanish. The only problem is no one can determine how to make him visible again. Caine’s predicament eventually drives him mad, with terrifying results.

Before I watch and review one of 2020’s most critically acclaimed films so far, THE INVISIBLE MAN, I figured it would make sense to watch another remake-of-sorts that the new film had reminded me of - 2000’s HOLLOW MAN. HOLLOW MAN is directed by Paul Verhoeven, the man responsible for such classics as ROBOCOP, BASIC INSTINCT, TOTAL RECALL, STARSHIP TROOPERS, and probably his masterpiece - SHOWGIRLS. Because of that information, one should expect over-the-top action sequences and possible sexual content will either titillate or offend audiences. However, anyone wanting a character study of what goes on when a man becomes invisible will surely be disappointed. And honestly, the lack of a character study in this two-hour film is a flaw in a narrative sense, when that aspect could have elevated the film above B-movie schlock.

Following the template of many adaptations of THE INVISIBLE MAN that had been released prior, the story involves Sebastian experimenting with an invisibility serum on himself, causing himself to disappear from the human eye. He decides to have some fun with his state while trying to create an antidote. As each attempt doesn’t make him visible again, he grows frustrated and starts going crazy, doing awful things to others. He commits murder, molests women and even rapes one, feeling he has the power to do so without any repercussions. This is as far as the social commentary and character study goes, as the film just becomes a straight on sci-fi slasher film of sorts that’s more ALIEN than anything else. On a brainless level, I guess that’s fine and the film is never once boring. But considering the man is doing some terrible things to women and that part of the film is never really pushed besides some uncomfortable moments between Sebastian and his female co-workers, it feels like there’s something missing in terms of some justice from his victims beyond the typical horror film ending.

The characters are all archetypes as well, even though each one get small moments to shine. I will say that despite the sexual predator angle that never really feels complete as an arc, the female characters in the film do feel more fleshed out than their male counterparts. Linda is smart and resourceful, Sara is tough and confident, and Janice is sassy and sarcastic. While lab assistant Carter plays the comic relief each time he appears, the only male character with development is Sebastian himself. And despite the serum making him more erratic and power hungry as each minute goes by, a small issue is that Sebastian was kind of a egotistical prick right from the start. He thinks he’s so much of a genius, that he can bypass government sanctions to perform experiments without thinking someone will catch on. He spies on his neighbor [the one he’ll eventually rape] undressing without shame. He’ll push himself on ex-girlfriend Linda to get back together, even when she clearly doesn’t want to. And even before he really displays moments of madness, he’s goosing and molesting his co-workers. So did the serum really make him evil, or was he evil all along? This is where a character study could have come in, but that’s not Verhoeven’s forte.

That being said, HOLLOW MAN is still a fun watch that quickly moves by despite the film being about two hours long. It has thrilling and tense moments throughout, especially in the film’s exciting final act. The special effects are pretty solid for 2000’s CGI, even more impressive when they had to shoot most of these scenes twice - one with Kevin Bacon and another with just Bacon himself performing the same motions to overlap the scenes into one. And I liked the whole idea that this guy could be anywhere, creating this claustrophobic feeling throughout. Verhoeven is a very visual director and I think he succeeded here, as the film looks great, is paced really well, and gives great payoffs to suspenseful moments. Plus the gore is pretty gnarly as well.

HOLLOW MAN also wouldn’t be as fun as it is without Kevin Bacon in the main role. You can tell he’s enjoying himself playing this cocky scientist who just ramps up the terror by the film’s end. Despite what the character did, it’s hard not to like Kevin Bacon in anything. He’s totally committed and we look forward to seeing what he’ll do onscreen [or not in this case]. Elisabeth Shue doesn’t really get a whole lot to do until the film’s final act, but she’s likable enough in the role to care about her. She shares some nice tension with Bacon and slightly rises above the generic female heroine deal to root for her by the end. Josh Brolin even gets less to do, but he’s not terrible in his role either. Even though I don’t think he had much romantic chemistry with Shue, even when the film pushes that angle hard. Kim Dickens played it tough and smart, believing her performance. And it’s always nice to see Greg Grunberg in anything. He has a sympathetic moment near the end that I completely bought into. I wish the cast, besides Bacon, got more to do. But they all played their roles as best as they could considering the shallow, yet entertaining script.

Overall, HOLLOW MAN isn’t a deep reinterpretation of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man story, but it’s a fun one at least. A character study of the main character as his mental state deteriorates while being invisible, as well as a more satisfying resolution to this same invisible man molesting and raping women beyond the typical horror film ending would have been nice. But that’s not Paul Verhoeven’s wheelhouse, rather focusing on visually telling an entertaining popcorn film that is obviously inspired by 1979’s ALIEN or any other thriller that focuses on claustrophobia. The 2000 CGI holds up better than one would expect, while Verhoeven captures a lot of genuine tension and suspense throughout the film, especially in the film’s final act where the you-know-what hits the fan. And while the characters probably could have had more development, at least the actors all try and elevate the material given to them. Kevin Bacon, in particular, is extra good as the film’s antagonist and seems to be having a blast in the role of the title character. Someone looking for something deeper should probably look for another adaptation of the same concept. But if you like gore, good special effects, eye candy, tension and a fun Bacon performance, it’s clear to see that HOLLOW MAN may be worth a look.

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