Review – To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story (The Standout Documentary of the Year)

Friday the 13th 7: The New Blood, Friday the 13th 8: Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, Jason X, Pumpkinhead 2: Blood Wings, 2001 Maniacs, Chillerama, Digging Up the Marrow, The Haunting of Alice D, Charlie’s Farm, Old 37, Death House, Hatchet, Hatchet 2, Hatchet 3, Hatchet 4: Victor Crowley… Yeah, you know exactly who the fuck Kane Hodder is. And thousands of you have had the enviable opportunity to meet him in person at various horror conventions around the country. By all accounts, no one has ever walked away from meeting the actor and stuntman saying, “wow, that was a let down.” Hell, my friend even sent me a video of his three year old son beating on Kane was a blow-up ax. There’s a reason why genre fans flock to the hulking icon of fright. He’s alluring, he’s charming, and he represents the Devil inside all of us who’s begging to get out. But, let’s be real. None of us know Kane. None of us (the audience) are lucky enough to call him a friend. However, after watching To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story, you will get to see a rare glimpse into the legend’s heart. You’ll get to hear his story, in his words straight from his mouth. I guarantee you… You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll learn a few things about horror film history. And you’ll walk away with a brand new perspective on Kane, who’s just as much a man as he is a living time capsule. To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder story is available on Blu-ray/DVD and VOD this Friday, July 13th, courtesy of Epic Pictures. Here’s why you need to own it, and here’s where you can get it!

I didn’t expect it to be so endearing, so intense and so heart-breaking. Archive footage is cool, and behind-the-scenes stories are incredibly welcomed, but what got to me the most is just how much Kane Hodder opened up about his history and his own personal trauma. Several critics label him as the man who’s “murdered more people on film than anyone in history,” and that’s quite the accomplishment. Kane is a celebrity. A big money maker. He’s in demand, professional and has a resume that 99.99% of actors would kill for. But, life wasn’t always a grand, leisurely walk for the giant. To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story goes in depth into Kane’s childhood and young-adulthood, primarily the time in his life when he was the victim of bullying. I’m a grown, 30 year old man, but let me tell you.. I teared up during this part of the documentary. I was not prepared for his raw emotions and heart-ache, which hurt me to the core as someone who finds value in his life and legacy. I wasn’t prepared to see him teary-eyed. It was an unforeseen, emotional punch that caught me off guard. Later on, Kane dives deep into his burn accident. Like, really deep. An actual photo of the accident that almost took his life starts a dark journey down his most emotional road as Kane takes viewers to that day, the aftermath, his fight for survival in an ill equipped hospital; to finally finding the doctor who saved his life. The actor bravely recalls his months of searing pain and agony until he reaches a point when he needs to take a break from his candid commentary. Again, tears on my end. I wondered if showcasing Kane as a living, breathing human being with emotions and pain would hurt his brand – a hulking, killing machine. But, I was wrong. Adding that extra layer of depth to Mr. Hodder’s persona only makes me respect him more. Scars are signs of struggles we’ve overcome. And Kane not only survived, he thrived.

Titling this documentary To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder story is accurate. Obviously, this feature film chronicles the personal and physical peaks and valleys of his life, but it also gives a time-line of his rise to fame, his fall from grace, and ascension to cult icon. After seeing a photo of Kane as a long-haired teenager, I found it humorous to listen to the lengths that he’d go to entertain and thrill his friends. He always knew that was his destiny, but he needed to find a way to channel that energy. The opportunity came when he nabbed his first movie role, if you could even call it that. As seen in a clip in To Hell and Back, Kane’s very first gig was a background extra in California Split, a George Segal drama comedy. We get to hear substantial stories about Renny Harlin’s Prison, and Kane’s continued work as a stuntman, until we land on the days of Friday the 13th. This, of course, will be the part that viewers will be most invigorated by. It’s so ethereal and enthralling to hear Mr. Hodder talk about the films that made him a legend, with commentary that only he has to offer. In the minds of many, there is only one Jason Voorhees – and it’s Kane Frickin’ Hodder! What was his first scene as Jason? What was his favorite scene to shoot as Jason? All of that and more is answered in this documentary. However, this is where his career meets a point of contention; as Kane dives into details about how he was replaced by another actor before Freddy vs. Jason started shooting. Dark days were ahead for the actor and stuntman, until casting agents, directors and producers started booking him off of the name he built as a top 3 slasher. Films started trickling in again until he was offered the role as Victor Crowley in Adam Green’s Hatchet franchise. From there, well, the rest is history. And as stated by Mr. Green in this documentary, Kane is experiencing a second wind – and he still has a lot more to do!

Struggles and film roles aside, To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story also depicts what Kane is like when he’s not on camera. He’s funny. He’s kind. He’s professional and somewhat of a perfectionist. The sense of humor he has shines through in To Hell and Back, especially in the segment that depicts his shenanigans and pranks on the set of Hatchet. And what’s better? Kane believes in the genre. He enjoys the genre. He does dozens of horror films a year because he loves it, not just for the paycheck. He loves meeting fans and gets a kick out of their desire to be choked by him. He loves…his family. I, somewhat stupidly, never thought for a second that Kane would have a wife and two sons. I always looked at him as Jason Voorhees and not as a subtle comedian and family man. That’s why To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder and its story are so important. It shows him as more than an actor, as more than a horror legend. It shows him as a person. A real person! The documentary also highlights his desire to tackle more complex roles, as seen with the segment about his time on Monster (2003). Here’s looking forward to that in the years to come.

Presented by Dread Central and produced by Masterfully Macabre Entertainment and Four Js Productions, To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story scoured the VHS shelves for the most distinguished faces in the horror genre to lend their commentary to Hodder’s story. Robert Englund, Cassandra Peterson, Adam Green, Bruce Campbell, John Buechler, Sean S. Cunningham, Michael Aloisi, Jack Coleman, Zach Galligan, Laurie Ortiz, Danielle Harris, Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Adam Rifkin, Harrison Smith, Felissa Rose, Ted White and Rick McCallum all appear in support of Kane; and talk about their time with him on set, his allure to fans, and genuine stories away from the industry where they got to know him as a man. If that’s not a line-up and an in-depth analysis, I don’t know what is! To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story is directed and produced by Derek Dennis Herbert. Fellow producers include Andrew Barcello, Russ Forga and Sherri Forga. Zachary Hunter provided cinematography during the walk-throughs in the desert and when Kane visited the burn unit that saved his life. It was all edited together by Mike Hugo. I would like to thank Kane Hodder for his humility, his fierceness, his genuinity, his bravery and his kindness in opening up the way he did here. It’s obvious to me that he went above and beyond, and gave the fans exactly what they wanted. It’s because of this that To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story is simply…The Best Documentary of The Year. Hands down.  I was provided with a free reviewer screener, but I fully intend on spending my money on a hard copy. You should, too. I can give this score without a single shred of guilt. Intense, Exhilarating, Honest… Buy it here!

Final Score: 10/10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)

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