J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story


Kane Hodder is probably the most recognizable ambassador for horror movies working in film today, even though he wore a hockey mask for his most famous role (Jason Voorhees) and heavy prosthetic make-up for his second major franchise character (Victor Crowley). Hodder was a fan favorite before the industry understood the horror genre had fan favorites and he still brings something special to every film he makes. However, he had to endure quite a bit to get to where he is now. No matter what you thought of him before, you will develop enormous new respect for Hodder after watching Derek Dennis Herbert’s documentary, To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story (trailer here), which releases tomorrow on DVD/BluRay and VOD.

It is not clear whether it is an established fact, but many of Hodder’s friends and colleagues are convinced he has committed more on-screen murders with his own hands (machine-gunning faceless charging troops in war movies wouldn’t count) than any other actor. His tenure as Jason in the Friday the 13th movies are a big part of that body count. He wore the hockey mask for four films, starting with Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood and concluding with Jason X. They might not be the best films in the series, but fans still consider him the definitive Jason.

Yet, there is far more to his story. It sounds remarkable now, given his unmistakable size and daredevil reputation, but Hodder was bullied relentlessly during his pre-teen years. This almost sounds like a cliché from a 1980s slasher film, but Hodder talks about the experience in direct and personal terms. Frankly, he explains the psychological impact of bullying better than any other documentary we’ve seen.

Unfortunately, that was not his lowest point. Early in Hodder’s stunt career, he nearly died when a fire stunt went disastrously wrong. Yet, it is even more harrowing to hear about the months of pain and botched care Hodder suffered until he was finally transferred to the Bothin Burn Center, one of the top burn wards in the country. It is pretty heavy to see Hodder return to express his gratitude to the specialists there.

Of course, there is also plenty of fun stuff in Herbert’s doc, like Hodder pal Robert Englund, who definitely came to play. Fans of Cannon action films will be interested to learn Hodder did stunt work on Avenging Force—in a case of getting back up on the horse that threw you, they were actually fire stunts. Adam Green also discusses his collaborations with Hodder at length, many of which really brought out the actor’s sense of humor (such as Digging Up the Marrow, which remains bafflingly under-appreciated).

To his credit, Hodder is remarkably forthright about all the mistakes he has made in life. Clearly, he hopes others can learn from his experiences. Hodder is a survivor—that’s what really comes through loud and clear—and it always behooves us to listen to how trauma survivors endured their ordeals. Plus, he genuinely seems to love what he does and has a real affection for most of the films he made, which is cool. That is why it always gives us confidence to see his name in a film’s credits. This is not a breezy film, but it will confirm your horror fandom tenfold, at least. Very highly recommended for horror aficionados in general and Hodder fans particularly, To Hell and Back has a special screening tonight (7/12) at the Galaxy Theatre in Austin, TX, before releasing tomorrow on DVD/BluRay and iTunes.

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