HBO's 'The Inventor' Is a Silicon Valley Horror Story That Will Chill the Blood

Matt Roush
Preview HBO

Few startup bubbles burst with the ferocity of Theranos, a would-be revolution in healthcare that turned out to be the high-tech equivalent of snake oil. The P.T. Barnum of this tale, powerfully spun by Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney in The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, is self-styled wunderkind Elizabeth Holmes.

She dropped out of Stanford at 19 to found a company built on the dream of early detection via inexpensively analyzed blood samples obtained from a single finger-prick. One problem: It didn't work.

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The Inventor artfully builds on the reportage of The Wall Street Journal's John Carreyrou, who broke the story, and The New Yorker's Ken Auletta, who found Holmes's explanations of her miracle device "comically vague." But the film is also a meditation on the nature of invention and what separates a visionary from a scam artist.

Holmes's unblinking confidence seduced powerful investors and made her a media darling. But test results were rigged, and paranoid secrecy reigned behind the scenes. More than a cautionary tale, The Inventor is a Silicon Valley horror story of hubris that will chill the blood.

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, Premieres Monday, March 18, 9/8c, HBO