To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story
Directed by Derek Dennis Herbert
Jason Voorhees used to get beat up in school. Well, okay, it was Kane Hodder, the guy who would play Jason in four movies and a video game, who got beat up. The scrawny kid was an easy target for bullies.
Later, when he was in his early twenties, the young stuntman set himself on fire for a newspaper reporter and wound up in the hospital with life-threatening burns (at one point, doctors told Hodder’s parents that he would surely die).
He’s known primarily for two major roles – Jason in the Friday the 13th series and Victor Crowley in the Hatchet movies – but he’s done stunt work in dozens of movies from the early 1980s right up to today.
I know all this because I’ve seen the documentary To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story, which is not quite two hours long but feels much shorter, because when the movie ends you wish it would keep on going.
The documentary consists mostly of Hodder speaking to the camera about his life and career. Guest stars pop in and out – Robert Englund has some nice things to say, as do Bruce Campbell, John Carl Buechler, and Sean S. Cunningham, among others – but most of the time we’re just hangin’ with Hodder.
I was surprised by the film. I haven’t read Hodder’s autobiography, Unmasked (2011), and I knew him only as the hulking, voiceless monster from the Friday that 13th movies. Turns out Kane Hodder, the pop-culture icon, is a soft-spoken, eloquent, immensely likeable man. And, yes, that’s his real name.
This is a wonderful documentary – one of the best of its kind. It’s not fancy. No flashy camera work, no dramatic reconstructions of episodes from Hodder’s life. A few clips from his movies, but not too many. What sells the film is Hodder himself, who is – and I choose my words carefully – captivating. You simply cannot stop listening to him; his story is so compelling, and so well told, that you don’t want the movie to end.
And when Kane Hodder, the gentle man who played the masked brute Jason Voorhees, has to fight back tears when he’s telling us about the fire stunt that nearly killed him – well, if that doesn’t make you just a little teary-eyed, then I’m pretty sure you’re not paying attention.
To Hell and Back is available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and VOD. For horror fans, it’s absolutely a must-watch.