“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story

TO HELL AND BACK: THE KANE HODDER STORY is an above average horror movie doc, partially in filmatistic execution but especially in subject matter. I mean it has its share of generic talking head interviews and convention footage, and a questionable interview choice or two – the brief clips of “hip hop duo Twiztid” praising the man of the hour create a sinking feeling that we horror fans might be on the wrong side of history. And there’s lots of repetition that seems to me like it could’ve been trimmed to strengthen this 104 minute story into a fierce 80. But the movie’s emphasis on the vulnerabilities of a legendary movie slasher, contrasted with his menacing qualities both on and off screen, make for a fascinating story at times.

Hodder is, of course, the guy who portrayed Jason Voorhees in FRIDAY THE 13THs 7, 8, 9 and X. We hear about how being stunt coordinator on Renny Harlin’s PRISON accidentally led to wearing monster makeup (and putting bugs in his mouth) and impressed makeup genius/part 7 director John Carl Buechler enough to get him the role of his life. And they get into what he added to the character, how his suggestions and fearlessness spruced up the movies, what his family thinks about it, how much fans like to be choked by him, how devastating it was to be replaced for FREDDY VS. JASON, even some tidbits about doing stunts on AVENGING FORCE (actually a pivotal moment in his life, you’ll find out, and not because the movie is so cool).

There’s some pretty funny stuff about his first movie appearance – a teenage casino extra in CALIFORNIA SPLIT. They talk about his scene in MONSTER. They don’t talk about his scene in BEST OF THE BEST 2.

There’s some stuff about his later movies, like they interview Adam Green about his work on the HATCHET series, which I’m afraid looks like ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST compared to some of the other stuff they show clips of.

But as much or more time is spent on formative traumas: being bullied as a child, being horribly burned in a fire stunt, and (more importantly) almost dying due to four months of poor medical care. He connects these events together as things that made him bitter and suicidal, that you couldn’t possibly understand if you haven’t experienced them, and that he was too ashamed and stubborn to talk about for years. People would see his burn scars and he’d lie about it happening on some movie, instead of the truth that he was 22, showing off for a local newspaper, and used the wrong kind of glue as a burning agent.

There’s a lot of b-roll of Hodder standing in nature or looking out over cities with a thoughtful look on his mug. And to be honest there’s enough of it that I started thinking “Oh come on, he’s just looking off in the distance for the cameras, he’s not actually brooding about his past.” But I do appreciate that these shots break up the standard interview footage.

Some of the most powerful scenes have Hodder revisiting the sites of incidents he’s describing. He tells a story about hanging off a 35 floor hotel balcony as a teenager, then we see him stepping a leg over just such a balcony. The camera looks over the ledge, and my stomach drops. Later he returns to the burn ward where his life was saved years ago, tries to figure out which room was his, how it was laid out at the time, and is even able to talk to and thank the actual doctor who turned his condition around.

That’s the dichotomy there. He’s a psycho, and he’s an open book. This movie did raise my respect for Hodder. Unlike many FRIDAY fans, I’ve never had a preference for one Jason actor over another. Although I felt bad for Hodder for not getting to do FREDDY VS. JASON, I was always skeptical of the conventional wisdom that a guy who came in years after the four best installments should own the role forever. I swear I read at the time that director Ronny Yu wanted an even bigger Jason, but the 2017 book Slash of the Titans: The Road To Freddy vs. Jason dismisses that as an untrue “rumor,” saying that replacement Ken Kirzinger is only an inch taller than Hodder, and that Yu blames executives for the decision. I checked the 2003 Freddy vs. Jason: The Official Movie Magazine, and it says that “Yu has remained largely mum on the issue” but quotes Robert Englund speculating, “I believe that Ronny had a different concept of Jason’s physical nature in mind. I just think he was looking for a tall, skinny, Anthony Perkins kind of character” and paraphrases producer Douglas Curtis saying that “the consensus was that they should look for somebody sleeker and newer to play the role.”

(None of that is mentioned in the doc, which purports that Hodder was never given a reason, and shows how painful it was for him to be invested in the idea of a showdown with Freddy for years when everyone assumed he’d be involved. But luckily it also shows that he’s gotten over it, or is starting to.)

Another thing I like that no one points out, but that’s very much on display here, is that this guy forever associated with playing a silent killer actually has a great voice. So gather around the campfire and listen. I’ve always enjoyed seeing him pop up as a thug or monster, and now that I know The Kane Hodder Story I’ll appreciate it so much more.

Selected Hoddography

LONE WOLF MCQUADE
AVENGING FORCE
BEST OF THE BEST
BEST OF THE BEST 2
STEEL FRONTIER
BEST OF THE BEST 3: NO TURNING BACK
MONSTER
2001 MANIACS
THE DEVIL’S REJECTS
FROZEN
HATCHET III

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018 at 10:08 am and is filed under Documentary, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

14 Responses to “To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story”

  1. I wouldn’t normally get into something personal like this, but it seems like fair game when he puts himself out there in a documentary. I know someone who worked with him on a low low low budget movie (a real pile of crap I won’t even name), and this person I know said he was a jackass — possibly because he acted like he was above this crappy little movie, possibly because he’s actually in fact a jackass. I was really bummed out to hear that, and I’d always hoped it was untrue. Does this movie shed any (unfortunate) light like that? Has anyone else ever heard anything good or bad about him?

  2. I seem to recall that on the Jason X episode of How Did This Get Made, one of the hosts (or maybe one of the guests?) tells an unflattering story about seeing Hodder at a horror convention.

    I think the gist of it was, an adorable little 3-year-old in a Jason costume ran up to him all excited, and Hodder shut him down with a quick “It’s $20 for an autograph.” Or something like that.

    Anyway, that doesn’t make him a monster, but it does sound jackass-y.

  3. Whenever I hear stories like this, I tend to assume there’s some exaggeration and entitlement going on. Nobody needs to be nice to you just because you’re a fan. He’s not your friend. He owes you nothing. I admit that shutting down a three year old sounds jackassy (though I can imagine that if you give an inch at a con, the nerd horde will take a mile) but it also sounds pretty unlikely that a three year old would have any fucking clue who Kane Hodder is so I’m gonna take that story with a grain of salt. Kane seems like the type of guy who doesn’t suffer fools, and I’d imagine he deals with quite a few of them in the low budget horror realm. I’m fully okay with every last one of them feeling his wrath.

    Personally, I don’t know why you’d want Jason to be friendly in the first place. I like the idea of Kane traveling the world, making nerds feel bad about themselves. It’s a righteous quest.

  4. I’m kinda with Majestyk here. As a long time convention goer, I know way too many “Man, that star is an asshole” stories, that turned out to be “I bumped into star XY while he was taking a piss right after he signed paid autographs for hours and bothered him for a free picture and he said no. What an asshole.” I once had a weird encounter with a fan who decided that she now hates Ethan Phillips (Neelix from Star Trek Voyager), because according to her it was incredibly rude of him to chew nicotine gum on stage.

    Not saying that all stories of Hodder being a jerk are untrue (Never met him or went to a convention he attended), but from my own experience, most of the time it’s the fan, not the star.

  5. I too heard rumors of Hodder being an at conventions and I too think that ‘fans’ need to start learning that con-appearances are a damned job. He’s there to work and get paid. Many fans seem to think con-appearances are for them, the fans, to rewarded for being good fans by the creative-talent*. No, it’s a chance for you, the fan, to meet creative-person you like and thank them, like Mr. M said, they owe you nothing so stop acting like your owed time and accolades from them because you wear their art’s underpants or whatever. So like CJ said: most of the time it’s the fan, not the star.

    *Work story: co-workers were complaining about some country singer brushing fans off at some place. They used the usual go-to arguments of the fans pay their bills so the fans are OWED an autograph. I told them it was not a convention appearance or concert or whatever, the dude was just a a Walgreens or some shit and he owed those ‘fans’ and you (co-workers) nothing. His ‘job’ is to create art which you, the fan, choose to support or not. His job is NOT to support and give in to the demands of his fans who feel they are ‘owed’ stuff because they bought the artist’s art. They disagreed.

  6. I appreciate this guy’s passion and I’m glad he was able to make a career playing chest-breathing wrestler-styled slashmen, but his attempt (with success!) to carve out some kinda gore nerd personality cult on the basis of having played the main man in the four worst FRIDAY sequels continues to baffle me. I will grant that the guy who replaced him in FVJ was pretty weak, too ponderous, lacking a vigorous brutality, but by my count that makes him only the sixth best of eight, ahead of only the aforementioned Ken Kirzinger and CJ Graham from JASON LIVES. Richard Brooker’s squirrelly, misshapen forest freak is still tops, imo.

  7. To me, there’s no question that Kane is the best Jason. He gives Jason an intent and malevolence that no one else bothered with. There’s a physical vocabulary to the way Kane moves and reacts as Jason that is more consistent and sophisticated than anything the other guys attempted. (The Final Chapter guy comes a close second.) You can tell Kane’s Jason apart from the others just from his silhouette, he way he holds himself. It gives Jason character, personality, even intelligence.

    The one thing he doesn’t give the character is vulnerability, which is why ultimately I think he wouldn’t have worked in the version of FvJ they went with. You can’t feel sympathy for Kane’s Jason. He’s an active engine of murder, not a confused victim of bad mothering.

  8. I agree that that fan entitlement exists, but the original story was about him (allegedly) being bad to work with, which would not be a good thing. I would be inclined to believe those stories just on the basis of the difficulties examined in the movie.

    As for him being in the worst FRIDAYs, I agree, but the documentary does make some points about what make his Jason special. (Also, JASON X is good.)

  9. Yeah, but there are shades of “difficult to work with”. From “I’m an asshole just because I am” to “I have a reason to be grumpy, I hope none of my co-workers takes my bad mood in a wrong way, but of course they do”.

  10. I remember reading some celeb or other’s book and they spoke about how difficult conventions could be when you got spotted on the floor or outside because you invariably get asked for an autograph, but part of the T&Cs for being at a lot of cons explicitly forbids free autographs, as the organiser wants their cut. In a lot of cases I think we probably over-estimate how much of the £20 or whatever the actor gets, because I really do think unless you’re real b-movie royalty you probably don’t have that much negotiating power, and could be disinvited.

    I think that pretty much means that – unless you have a clout to tell the organisers to get fucked – you’re gonna have to turn people down or see what I imagine is a pretty handy financial lifeline for a lot of b-movie actors get flushed away. TBH I’ve always thought 20 quid was pretty reasonable as the going rate, some of these ppl are cool as fuck.

    Reading that, wish I could remember the book, made a lot of sense to me. It puts them in a position whereby they know they’re gonna get pegged as rude, but don’t have a lot of options. I would be shit at being famous tbh. I’m pretty chill but getting accosted must not that be fun. And also how many toddlers are into the Friday the 13th series enough to know the cast by name, that is some bad parenting cos the movies are violent. People get stabbed in the boob.

    That’s the type of thing that makes a lot of sense. Funnily enough the new A Star Is Born iterates a few times that being asked for autographs and photos and that sort of stuff isn’t always that fun, or at least that there’s a time and a place. So maybe there’s gonna be a bit of a culture shift on that front now, I dunno. I definitely think concepts of nerd entitlement are under a spotlight now in a way they haven’t been before. For people interested in this stuff I’d really recommend Carrie Fisher’s books. I think it comes up in a couple but it is definitely touched up on the last one that came out.

  11. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 4th, 2018 at 1:07 am

    JASON X is indeed good. I’ll be forever disappointed they didn’t release at least one other film using that fantastic mask/suit design, or went a little more crazy with it in the first one.

  12. Going on a slight tangent about getting what you paid for, I paid a decent chunk of money to spend a day with Anthony Stewart Head and I just thought it was for getting to sit in the front row while he talked about his career and answered questions as well as get my picture taken with him – which I thought was well worth it.

    Then I found out there was a second day as well where we got to spend all morning at breakfast with him in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. So, I definitely got my money’s worth and then some that time around.

  13. I have a routine I follow for if I meet someone famous that I’m a fan of. I never interrupt them at anything (dinner, going to the bathroom, etc.). I never ask for anything (autograph, pic). I just say it’s nice to meet them and I enjoyed (this movie, the way they did this thing, etc.) and thank them for whatever that thing was and for their time. It’s actually been years since I’ve met anyone I would care enough about to ask for something, but if I were to meet someone and they were friendly and we weren’t at something where they were getting paid for photos, I’d feel okay asking them for a pic after sussing them out.

    One summer, years ago, I lived in Sun Valley, ID, home of the rich and famous, so I saw a few people, including Bruce Willis. The best encounter was with Jamie Lee Curtis and her husband, Christopher Guest. My friends and I sat behind them on some bleachers at an ice skating rehearsal show. I chatted with her about TRUE LIES, which had just come out. She asked my friend for a piece of gum later on. Another friend asked Christopher Guest for an autograph for her boyfriend. It was outside and dark by this time and he was having trouble seeing to write out “This one goes to 10” and signing it. When we got home later she could see that the pen died halfway through. A few days later she was in line behind him at the drugstore. He recognized her, asked if the pen had died and then offered to give her another one without her asking. Truly a class act, both of them.

  14. grimgrinningchris

    October 6th, 2018 at 5:23 pm

    He is bad to work with.

    I’m not gonna name names explicitly here but go through the comments of some other relevant movies to see who I’d have heard this directly from.

    He also tries to hit on con organizers girlfriends right in front of them and then when called out, bows up “So what are you gonna do about it?”

    Yeah, Hodder is a fucking piece.

    That said, he is really good at the parts of his job that he is actually getting paid for – and although I really dig CJ Graham’s more Michael Myers-y version of Jason in JASON LIVES, I do readily acknowledge that Hodder really IS the best Jason (even if he’s surrounded by 2 of the worst F13 movies).

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