June 21, 2018 To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story (Documentary Review)
It is likely that most Horror fans already know who Kane Hodder is, and not solely because of his 2015 reality show The Killer & I. He has been a regular fixture in Horror flicks for years, like 1993’s Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings, the Hatchet films, or, bizarrely, as Michael Myers in the 2012 short Driving Lessons. That in mind, he is most famous for playing Jason Voorhees in the latter Friday the 13th/Jason films. He was not the boy at the end of the first one, nor the man wearing the bag in the second. Although, he was the one with the sleeping bag in 1988’s Part VII: The New Blood, the one who shoved Kelly Hu (The Scorpion King 2002, The Tournament 2009) down fatally in 1989’s Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, and the one with the liquid nitrogen in 2001’s Jason X.
All this said, is there more to the man than just being Jason Voorhees or Victor Crowley? Director Dennis Herbert thought so, which is why he set out to make a Documentary about him. Coming to VOD, DVD, and Blu-Ray on Thursday, June 28th via Dread Central Presents, To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story talks to the man himself about his life from growing up in the South Pacific to putting on the hockey mask for the first time and beyond. Not only that, but they talk to his friends and Horror compatriots in Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead series, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr series), Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street series), and Cassandra Peterson (aka Elvira, Mistress of the Dark) and more about their recollections.
The film promises to be “a uniquely human story about one of cinema’s most vicious monsters.” Although, it is not the only way to listen to that story. Hodder had previously worked with Michael Aloisi (Arm Candy book 2013) to write his biography, Unmasked: The Story of the World’s Most Prolific Cinematic Killer. It received favorable reviews on Amazon, and inspired Herbert to produce this film. Does it manage to translate the book well to screen? Or should Horror cinephiles stick to the text?
It certainly starts off well, giving viewers a montage of Hodder’s cinematic kills from Jason to 2008’s BTK and beyond. Production-wise, it is not exactly fancy – it is a clear, workable, talking-heads format. Hodder and guests are interviewed on some nice sets, but it is a familiar Documentary structure. However, it is pepped up with some extra bits, like Hodder visiting locations from his past, his early roles, etc. So, it has plenty of seasoning to work with, and references to keep the story going.
It does tell an interesting story. It is mostly chronological, though some of the big moments are arranged differently to tie into others. For example, the film contrasts Part VII’s famous fire stunt to Hodder’s earlier near-death experience. The latter incident was rarely, if ever, described in full until the 2011 book. The film does not shy from the details. It, and the childhood bullying he put up with, are perhaps the two big centrepieces of the film. They are the two big, personal instances that make the film more than a movie-by-movie retrospective. There are less traumatic parts that manage to capture the human side of Hodder. His recollection of dealing with the burns and malpractice in hospital are particularly eye-opening.
That is not to say it gets less interesting when it does cover Hodder’s career. Hardcore Horror fans may have caught the details elsewhere, but it does a good job relating them to newbies. Things like how he went from an extra, to a stuntman, to a screen star. How he came close to becoming Freddy Krueger in 1984, until Robert Englund came along. Then becoming friends with Englund, and how they did the convention circuit and 2009’s Fear Clinic series together, but not 2003’s Freddy Vs Jason for some reason, which also gets explained.
As such, people should not expect a sole lookback at the later Jason films. Nor indeed that and the Hatchet film series. It is a mix of personal stories, what he contributed to Jason, Hatchet, etc, and his latter-day shift into more verbal, even title roles. It goes in deep enough to uncover new information and interesting facts, but without bogging the pace down. The book may help dig in that bit deeper, but To Hell and Back can stand straight next to it. Thus, for these reasons, CrypticRock gives this film 4 out of 5 stars.