You can’t be a fan of the horror genre and not know who Kane Hodder is, but just in case: he is THE man behind the mask, the only Jason that really matters in the Friday the 13th franchise, Victor Crowley in the Hatchet franchise, and the bad-ass boogey man in countless horror films. As this film reveals, Kane Hodder is a hell of a nice guy who just so happens to be unbelievably good at playing bad guys and making them his own even when buried under tons of prosthetics and makeup. Most importantly, he is a survivor with a story that is both heart-breaking and inspirational.
To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story relies heavily on first-person interviews, with some footage from his films thrown in, as well as touching scenes where Hodder returns to some of the places where he has experienced both great pain and great triumph. Actors and directors who have worked with him are interviewed, as well as friends and family, and even fans who have had the pleasure of meeting him at horror conventions. Notable appearances are made by Cassandra Peterson (Elvira, Mistress of the Dark), Robert Englund (THE Freddy Krueger), and Bruce Campbell (Ash vs. Evil Dead).
These interviews work well at giving the viewer a picture of who Kane Hodder really is, except for a couple of inexplicable (and extremely annoying) interview segments with the two Juggalo clowns called Twiztid. Seriously.
Without giving too much away, here are a few of the revelations made in To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story:
- He was a meek kid who got mercilessly bullied and beaten up in elementary school. People who have suffered from being bullied need to hear his story.
- He is respected not just for being a great stuntman, but for having an amazing gift for acting with prosthetics and makeup covering his face. He gave a life and personality to Jason in the four Friday the 13th movies he did that no other stuntman who portrayed Jason ever had.
- He has killed more people with his bare hands than any other actor in movie history.
- Hodder was inspired to become a stuntman when he saw the Wild West Stunt Show at Universal Studios.
- Hodder did not play Jason Voorhees until the seventh movie in the series.
- He has been married to the same woman since 1984 and has two sons with her, having a stellar reputation as a great family man and father.
- He has a reputation of being the safest stunt coordinator in the industry.
- Hodder speaks openly about his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that he has had since the 70s when he was severely burned during a stunt he was performing for a news reporter.
It is in the excruciatingly detailed story of his burn accident that the movie finds its real heart, spending a significant amount of time covering that time in his life. Kane Hodder spares no details in sharing his horrifying experience, truly more disturbing than anything he has ever done in any movie. Forty years after the trauma, he still becomes emotional when he talks about it. As I watched this part of the documentary I felt so much empathy, respect, and admiration for Hodder! It completely makes sense that he has chosen a career that allows him to hide behind makeup and prosthetics, but it also says something about him that he has been coming out from behind the mask and playing actual human characters. He has taken his painful and traumatic experiences and shared them to inspire other people to get through their painful situations. At one point, he recounts how he got to the point of being seriously suicidal while recovering from his burn injuries. He states that when he reflects on that point in his life he can’t help but think of all the experiences and people he would have missed out on if he had gone through with it. He follows this by looking into the camera and saying, “if you are thinking about suicide, please think about all that you will miss out on.”
A little side note here: While Hodder handles the subject of his burn accident with both palpable emotion and a positive attitude, the one thing that he does seem to express some bitterness over is the Freddy vs. Jason snub. But even that he was able to finally have a semblance of emotional maturity and levity about as evidenced by footage of him playing himself on Hatchet director Adam Green’s comedy series Holliston. He tries to kill himself every time someone reminds him of losing the role of Jason in Freddy vs. Jason and it’s hilarious!
As hard as it is to listen to Hodder talk about his horrible experiences recovering from the burns, it gives the film a power and gravity that it might not otherwise have had. To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story could have been just another fluff piece where friends and family blow smoke up the person’s ass, talking about what a great guy he is, but director Derek Dennis Herbert and Kane Hodder use their platform to create a documentary that is an inspirational film about a very inspiring man. Hodder is revealed to be a tough but gentle man, who is humble and kind. Behind the mask is a man who is a survivor, a friend, a husband, a father, and a talented actor/stuntman. Oh, and he likes to choke people. Nobody’s perfect.