To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story
To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story is the harrowing story of a stuntman overcoming a dehumanizing childhood filled with torment and bullying in Sparks, Nevada. After surviving a near-death burn accident, he worked his way up through Hollywood, leading to his ultimate rise as Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th series and making countless moviegoers forever terrified of hockey masks and summer camp. Featuring interviews with cinema legends, including Bruce Campbell (Ash vs. Evil Dead), Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), and Cassandra Peterson (Elvira: Mistress of the Dark), To Hell and Back peels off the mask of Kane Hodder, cinema's most prolific killer, in a gut-wrenching, but inspiring, documentary. After decades of watching Kane Hodder on screen, get ready to meet the man behind the mask in To Hell and Back - an uniquely human story about one of cinema's most vicious monsters.
Derek Dennis Herbert
John Carl Beuchler
With tried and true friends from his career, his school years and former physicians – as well as Kane Hodder himself – you’ll get a solid picture of what this guy is all about. He’s genuine, deliciously foul-mouthed and one helluva story-teller.
And indeed, the title To Hell and Back is no exaggeration – with anecdotes about his storied career in Hollywood, painful remembrances of childhood bullies and the in-depth tales of his life-threatening burn stunt – once finished with the film, you’ll want to either high five this dude, give him a big heartfelt hug – or perhaps both.
Horror legends in their own right (Bruce Campbell, Robert Englund, Cassandra Peterson and more) come out to share their stories of time with the guy most folks call the definitive Jason Voorhees of the Friday the 13th franchise – on set with Hodder, hanging out at conventions and being just good buddies.
One of my favorite interviews comes from Ted White – who portrayed Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. He concedes the crown to Hodder as the ultimate Jason, but it made me feel sort of sad for White. I always loved his no-nonsense portrayal of Jason – but I guess, I feel the same as he does. Hodder is Jason. But there’s something depressing about simply handing the title over to Hodder. I mean, he did play Jason in 4 films (the only one to tackle the role more than once), but I never want to discount the work of other Jason’s. I’m a big old softee, I guess.
But then again, White agreed to appear on camera – so you gotta believe he’s speaking from the heart. But in one of the last interview segments in which White appeared, he did say he’d be able to take Hodder – so that serves to make my wishy-washy emotional feelings a little less prominent.
There’s also plenty of history of Hodder’s potential placement in Freddy Vs. Jason (he was the actor with Freddy’s glove at the end of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday). While he can now talk about this career jab with some humor – the fact that he was replaced after four films as Mr. Voorhees – still clearly has some bite to it.
But the deeply disturbing tales of Hodder’s brush with death (he was a 22-year old stuntman and was doing an interview with his hometown paper in Reno) will have you literally on the edge of your seat. He decided to show off a bit and perform a full body-burn stunt for the local journalist and needless to say – it all went wrong. His descriptions of this harrowing event will leave you breathless and practically in your own physical pain. But it doesn’t stop there. The immediate follow-up to the actual tragedy and then the months-long healing and rehab – well, these stories are mind-blowing, heart-wrenching and terrifying. I’ll spare the details, ‘cause no one can tell these tales like the man himself.
Of note – there are photos displayed – from the journalist present for the actual event – and they’re simply chilling.
And yes – as fans of Friday the 13th: The New Blood will know – Hodder didn’t shy away from throwing his body back into a full body-burn for his art. And Jason’s basement stand-off with Tina (Lar Park Lincoln) in the climax of The New Blood – wasn’t the first time back in the saddle. This guy is fearless!
But (there’s always a but)…
The film is not perfect. And in my opinion – here’s why:
At times it’s far too manipulative.
Now before panties are wadded into a bunch and the trolls begin to warm up their fingers for some whirlwind typing, hear me out.
The story of Kane is so interesting, heart-breaking and inspiring on its own, the many staged segments of him walking in the woods or the desert – appearing down or triumphant (depending on which story is being told) are wholly unnecessary.
And if you think that the film would be shortened too much by removing these segments – causing irreparable damage to its flow – you’d be wrong. The film as a whole could have been trimmed a tad. It was never uninteresting, but it felt slightly padded.
On top of that, the filmmakers mentioned in a Q&A following the Screamfest screening, that there was over 39 hours of interview footage with Kane himself. So that means, we could have had less of this manipulative, brooding extra staged stuff – and gotten more of what we want – which is Kane sharing his truly engaging life-stories.
There’s also the issue with the score over-powering what’s being told on-screen (at least some of the time). And again – Kane’s tales as well as the way Kane tells his stories – are powerful. All of this extra schmaltziness just waters things down and frankly, cheapens it a bit.
The film also goes into the “Victor Crowley” character of the Hatchet franchise – and takes a deep look at what is something of a renaissance for Hodder’s career. Many thoughts are shared of the off-chances that he would take on a second stalker character, heading a big horror series.
Also appearing in interview segments: Sean Cunningham (Friday the 13th), Adam Green (Hatchet), Zach Galligan (Gremlins, Hatchet III), John Carl Buechler (director of Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood) and Danielle Harris (the Halloween franchise).
The film is partially based on the biography Unmasked: True Life Story of the World’s Most Prolific Cinematic Killer by Michael Aloisi (who also appears in the film).
A consummate professional, a work-horse, a survivor, a dad and husband and the best damn Jason Voorhees this side of Camp Crystal Lake – Kane Hodder deserves the horror fame (and beyond) in which he can now bask.
And the film is a harrowing tale, centered on a man who can engage simply with his life-stories. I mean, not everyone can be this interesting. Regardless of Hodder’s crazy, fascinating life – if he wasn’t a brilliant story-teller, To Hell and Back wouldn’t have succeeded. As is – it’s a do-not-miss!
To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story held its Los Angeles premiere at the 17th Annual Screamfest Horror Film Festival in Los Angeles. It’s continuing its run on the festival circuit. But stay tuned for wider release information.