Scientist Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon), working for the military, has developed a serum that makes one invisible. Working with him are Matt Kensington (Josh Brolin), Sarah Kennedy (Kim Dickens), Janice Walton, (Mary Randle), Carter Abbey (Greg Grunberg), Frank Chase (Joey Slotnick), and Sebastian’s ex-girlfriend Linda McKay (Elizabeth Shue). They are able to reverse the serum’s effects and return a gorilla to visibility again. Sebastian is interested in Linda once again, but doesn’t know she is now involved with Matt.
Reporting to the military and his mentor Howard Kramer (William Devane), Sebastian lies and says he needs more time. He pressures his team to begin human testing prematurely, in secret, using himself as the guinea pig. It works and he becomes invisible. He plays pranks on his co-workers and molests Sarah. The procedure to return him to visibility fails and he almost dies.
He is quarantined in the lab and is given a latex mask to wear. He breaks the rules and leaves the building. He rapes a woman in a nearby apartment. When he returns to the lab, Linda warns him that she will report him if he runs off again. His answer is to create a device that runs a loop of his heat signature on a screen. He leaves again and spies on Linda and Matt and becomes enraged. He kills a dog in the lab.
His lab partners go to Kramer and confess, and he attempts to alert the military, but Sebastian drowns him in the pool. The next day, he disables the phones and the elevator codes, trapping his partners in the lab, and kills them, one by one, killing Janice first. The survivors hide in the lab. Matt and Carter hunt for him with imaging goggles, but he mortally wounds Carter. Linda saves Matt from him. Sebastian kills Sarah and Frank and locks Matt and Linda in the freezer. Linda creates a device to open the door and builds a flamethrower. Sebastian builds a bomb that will destroy the entire lab.
He dodges the flamethrower and fights with Linda. Matt hits him with a crowbar, and when he attacks, throws him into a circuit box, electrocuting him and making him partly visible. Linda and Matt find the bomb but can’t defuse it. They try to climb a ladder in the elevator shaft. Sebastian grabs Linda, but she causes him to fall down the shaft to his death and she and Matt escape the building.
The film was directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Andrew W. Marlowe. It is basically a remake of The Invisible Man (1933), in turn based on the 1897 novel by H.G. Wells. It was badly reviewed, called a slasher movie with a science gimmick, but was a financial success. It received an Oscar nomination for visual effects but lost to Gladiator. It was also nominated for three Stinkers but lost to Battlefield Earth. Most of the budget went to the 560 visual effects shots by SPI and Tippett Studios. It was shot in chronological order because the laboratory set would be destroyed in the end. Much of it was shot in Washington and Verhoeven was surprised they were allowed to shoot in front of the Pentagon.
The creepy soundtrack was composed by Jerry Goldsmith. The gorilla suit had to be warmed with hairdryers so it would show up on thermal imaging like a gorilla. A 3-D anatomically correct model of Kevin Bacon was built and donated to science researchers afterward. Gorillas are herbivorous, but Isabelle eats a rat while invisible, which should have been a warning to all concerned. The software used to track Sebastian is by Omni Consumer Products from Robocop. The production resisted the temptation to show the invisible man rape on screen. I’m sure they wanted to. But Linda’s dream sequence was pretty sexy. Kevin Bacon was chosen because he could be both charming and diabolical. Verhoeven said the movie leads you through teasing behavior, naughty behavior, bad behavior, and evil behavior. At what point does the audience-member abandon Sebastian?