Kane Hodder is a living legend. Horror Hounds have feared and admired him in his iconic roles as Jason Voorhees and Victor Crowley on the big, blood splattered screen for decades. But, there is more to the man behind the mask and in this candid documentary, To Hell and Back, fans are given a personal outlook into the person, the icon and the cultural impact that the one and only Kane Hodder continues to have on the horror genre.
The documentary directed by Derek Dennis Herbert is an extension of Kane’s 2011autobiography co-written with Michael Aloisi, Unmasked: The True Story of the World’s Most Prolific, Cinematic Killer. The book tackled incredibly difficult subject matters for Kane which he bravely shared with the world. In the documentary, Kane openly speaks about his most harrowing experiences from childhood bullying to the devastating accident which left him badly burned and mentally scarred. But, the most integral aspect to take away from this fantastically crafted film is that Kane is a fighter and faces his demons head on. This is the story of a man who has overcome so much and has gone on to live an amazing life. It’s about never giving up even when hope feels completely lost.
This is the quintessential documentary for his fans and genre lovers alike. It features ‘talking heads’ from several horror stars who have either worked with Kane or appeared with him at conventions from Robert Englund, Adam Green, Cassandra Peterson, Sean S. Cunningham, Felissa Rose, Danielle Harris, Bill Moseley, Sid Haig and Bruce Campbell. Even one of his predecessor Jason’s Ted White makes an appearance. White donned the famous hockey mask in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984), a whole four years before it became Kane’s turn to wield the machete. He stands by the claim that Kane made Jason Voorhees what he is, hitting home the legacy that Kane brought with his incarnation of the character.
While fans will never become tired of learning about Kane’s film career as both a stunt co-ordinator and as an actor it’s the struggles and difficulties he has dealt with in his life that sits at the core of this film. Kane heartbreakingly divulges the ordeal he suffered when he was severely burned after a fire stunt went horribly wrong in the early days of his career. Subsequently, he became a victim of medical negligence at the first hospital that was supposed to be treating his injuries.
As a fan who admires and respects him it’s tremendously upsetting to hear and it’s evident that for him to be able to speak about what he went through on camera was a difficult experience. One of the most poignant moments that the documentary captures is Kane revisiting the Bothin Burns Center in San Francisco; the hospital that aided his recovery.
Derek Dennis Herbert and cinematographer Zachary Hunter skilfully express Kane’s reflection on the hardest points of his life on a visionary level. He is shown revisiting locations that caused him both psychological and physical pain which conveys a haunting effect but it makes the whole piece so honest and forthright in giving the audience a glimpse into the real Kane Hodder.
While, To Hell and Back tackles emotive subjects, it’s not depressing by any means and overall it displays a heart-warming tone. Herbert balances the pace of the storytelling very well and crafts a documentary that is layered and intricate. It incorporates some humorous moments and reveals some interesting facts about the superb stuntman. Kane discusses how he was approached by Wes Craven to possibly play Freddy Krueger as Craven had considered casting a real burns victim in the role before deciding on established actor Robert Englund.
It’s fun to imagine what could have been however there’s no doubt that Kane and Robert would have had things any other way. Kane satisfyingly wore the Freddy glove in the final shot of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) as Freddy dragged the hockey mask down into the depths of hell along with him.
Sadly, in one of the most unjust casting decisions of them all, this would be the only moment that Kane would have in teasing Freddy VS. Jason. He reflects on his devastation of unexplainably having the role ripped away from him. His silver lining was of course Adam Green who provided Kane with some incredible opportunities in both creating a new horror legend in Victor Crowley and having the chance to try out his acting skills without heavy, prosthetic makeup. Events came full circle when Green encouraged Kane to satire himself in an episode of Holliston centring on him losing out on the Jason role in the 2003 killer crossover. By facing up to the situation and making light of himself it was a positive way for Kane to draw a line under his sadness.
To Hell and Back is a story of survival against all the odds. It exemplifies the down to earth persona, the hard-working stuntman and actor and the wonderful friend Kane is to those who know him. I have always admired him for his dedication to the fans. He embraces his appearances at conventions, takes his time to speak to everyone and sign autographs. He goes out of his way to give his fans a memorable experience and I am one of the fortunate fans who was lucky enough to meet him at Horror Con UK in 2016. Meeting him in person means the world to me and I now have a photograph that I can treasure for all time.
To Hell and Back is inspirational on so many levels and shows that with determination, will power and support from loving friends and family anything is possible. Kane Hodder is and will always be my horror idol.