bidbic

User_image
Review by Matt Fowler

To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story Review

Share.
Hellfire and Brimstone.

To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story will be available on VOD and DVD/Blu-ray on June 28th.

Straddling a delicate line between documentary and fan-goggling, To Hell and Back, a behind-the-mask look at stunt man/movie monster Kane Hodder is serviceable, occasionally gripping, peek inside the mind of a man who overcame a ton of physical and emotional anguish as a burn victim who fell under improper care for his serious wounds.

To the doc's credit, Hodder himself, who speaks on his own behalf for most of the film, is a draw. When the film begins to languish, and perhaps focus a bit too much on Hodder's work in the realm of supremely low budget horror, he's still there to captivate and engage. Hodder's gruff growling voice and quasi-gentle giant demeanor are, at times, enough to pull the viewer through large sections about his work in non-Jason Voorhees projects. Diehard fans of horror, and those interested in the B-movie scene in general, will find these parts compelling, but to the uninitiated, who might wonder why the Hatchet franchise is being discussed like it's a household name, things might drag.

Of course, they might also enjoy this glimpse inside the world of horror super-fandom, where Hodder is a rockstar at numerous gruesome horror conventions all over the country. Most pointedly, it might be fascinating to discover the intricacies of playing a monolith like Friday the 13th's Jason so well that one becomes known as the best Jason Voorhees. As someone who saw Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood in the theater, I know explicitly what the all commotion was about when Hodder took over the role. How his physical choices and mannerisms really did make for a top-notch Jason. He was different in the role, and since he got to play the beast in three more films, you understand why he's considered the definitive Jason.

So that could play really well with people who may wonder why Hodder, aside from having a really cool (real) name, is as beloved by horror fans as - say - Robert Englund of Freddy Krueger fame. And when you hear Hodder himself tell the story of how devastated he was to not play Jason in 2003's Freddy vs. Jason, and to not be told why, it makes sense because of the way the the film is crafted and how effective Hodder is as a storyteller. If you'd just heard the facts second-hand, they wouldn't play that big.

The real heart of the story though comes about 20 minutes in, after Hodder's recounted how he landed the Jason role in 1987, when we backtrack to 1977 and learn about how Hodder was seriously body-burned while performing a fire stunt for a local reporter doing a news piece on him. This is where the film really grabs you and things get super emotional. Hodder not only had to experience excruciating pain and disfigurement, but his hospital "aftercare," if you could call it that, comprised of four months of mishandled treatment that almost killed him had he not been referred, almost too late, to a burn care unit in San Francisco.

The hook of "Did you know the guy who played Jason almost died in a fire stunt?" easily then takes a backseat to the story of a pure survivor who endured all forms of hell and still decided to rise up and persevere. Hodder still holds the trauma close to his heart and isn't, shall we say, free and clear of the blaze, mentally, but his is still an inspiring tale with a fundamentally sound message.

To keep the film flowing, other horror luminaries chime in - like Englund, Bruce Campbell, Danielle Harris, Cassandra Peterson, various directors and co-workers, etc - but it's always Hodder who keeps things grounded and engaging. As a documentary, weighing the crucial against the extraneous, To Hell and Back is a touch overlong. Fans of the genre probably won't mind, but anyone else who's just dipping their toe might tire of career specifics beyond Hodder's role as Jason.

The Verdict

To Hell and Back is wise to use Hodder himself as the main storyteller, as he's always able to draw you in, even during the superfluous segments, but the film overall tends to loses focus. The beating heart of the core story is over after an hour or so, leaving the rest for fans only perhaps.

Good
The story of the man who breathed life into Friday the 13th's monster is fascinating, but this doc is a bit bloated.
Buying Guide Powered by IGN Deals
To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story