To Hell And Back: The Kane Hodder Story

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

To Hell And Back
"Celebrity docu-portraits like this are ten a penny; what makes this one different is the extraordinary story and the intensity with which it's delivered."

He's said to have killed more people onscreen than anyone else in film history. He's played Hatchet and Jason Voorhees as well as dozens of other monstrous men, and he's a hugely popular guest at events like Frightfest, where he never seems to run out of stories (or pranks) with which to entertain his fans. But there's much more to Kane Hodder, actor, stuntman, horror legend, than many of his fans will know. In Derek Dennis Herbert's documentary he talks about his life, career, and the years of struggle with horrific burns that meant he almost didn't make it.

The format of the documentary is simple. Hodder speaks directly to camera for most of it, and there are also contributions from the likes of Robert Englund, Bruce Campbell and Adam Green, plus assorted Hodder family members. Celebrity docu-portraits like this are ten a penny; what makes this one different is the extraordinary story and the intensity with which it's delivered, the courage Hodder shows in letting himself be vulnerable onscreen. As a result, it's a film with the potential to appeal to a much wider audience than just horror fans.

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At six foot three, with arms thicker than many people's thighs, Hodder doesn't look like the kind of person who would easily get pushed around, but he talks about a childhood marred by merciless bullying and about the difficulty he had standing up for himself in part because he couldn't understand why people would treat others like that. It's a very personal, in depth account that will resonate strongly with young viewers going through similar things, and it further challenges viewer expectations because it hints at just how much it took for him to pull himself together and pursue his passion, carving out a career as a stuntman and gradually crossing over into acting.

Every director dreams of working with an actor like Hodder. Far from having to be persuaded to do things, he makes suggestions that most actors would recoil from, his only apparent concern being with what the end result looks like onscreen. Fan favourite clips from his work split up the talking heads. There's some discussion of his work as a stuntman; he makes a point of the fact that he's never broken a bone and thinks those who show off about all their breaks are doing it wrong. As for the burns, he's told a lot of stories over the years about how he got them, but this is the first time he's told the truth.

Few injuries cause as much pain or are as difficult to treat as burns. Simply listening to Hodder talk about what he went through is considerably more disturbing than anything in his film catalogue. He also speaks frankly about how he considered suicide, a subject rarely addressed in this way, especially by a man. It's a powerful piece of testimony, as is what he has to say about his scars and the shame he felt in relation to them. A final shot of him relaxing with his shirt off sums up the journey with which the film is concerned. It's a powerful moment in a film that makes a big impression.

Reviewed on: 08 Jul 2018
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Meet the man behind the Jason Voorhees and Victor Crowley masks.

Director: Derek Dennis Herbert

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Robert Englund, Cassandra Petersen, Adam Green, Sean S Cunningham

Year: 2017

Runtime: 108 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

Frightfest 2017

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