Starring Kane Hodder, Robert Englund, Bruce Campbell, Adam Green, Cassandra Peterson, Danielle Harris, Harrison Smith, Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Michael Aloisi
Directed by Derek Dennis Herbert
Over the past few decades, the horror community has grown into a phenomenon. Conventions attract more and more attendees with every passing year. Fans add to their collections with each new release or a film, show, soundtrack, whatever… It’s gone from something that people enjoy to an important and passionate part of their lifestyle. There are some who live and breathe horror, letting it have an impact, however subtle or overt, on nearly everything they do in life.
Alas, even though horror has grown in so many wonderful and incredible ways throughout cinema history, detractors are ever present. Deriding us, shaming us, attacking our genre under the guise of moral and ethical superiority, there are people who can never understand the importance and meaning that horror can have when viewed from the right lens.
I bring all of this up because Kane Hodder is a perfect example of both these worlds. A horror icon known for playing Jason Voorhees, Victor Crowley, Ed Gein, and dozens of other roles, Hodder’s characters are often caught in the crosshairs of those who seek to demonize and vilify the genre. That’s why a film like To Hell and Back: the Kane Hodder Story is so vitally important as it shows not only the blood and guts that thrill audiences but the sweat and tears of the people who make the magic happen.
The documentary is essentially an abridged version of Kane’s life. We get little doses of intense stories from his formative years. Hodder discusses the role horrific bullying he received as a young boy played in shaping his view of humanity. He revisits, in an emotionally charged and heartbreaking scene, the incident that burned his body. He reminisces about the devastating feelings he went through when he was passed over for Freddy vs Jason. All of these stories play into the overarching narrative of following Kane’s career throughout the years and learning exactly who he is.
Interview clips with people such as Robert Englund, Danielle Harris, Sid Haig, Bruce Campbell, Adam Green, Cassandra Peterson, and more, all act as a way to understand how everyone else sees and appreciates Kane, a man who knows how hard he works but never lets it get to his head and never allows it to rob him of his humility, good will, and benignity. We also hear from Hodder throughout the film in various locations, such as him revisiting Hawaii, near where he grew up, or seeing him walk through the burn ward where he was sent to heal after a horrific botched recovery attempt. His candor, wit, intelligence, and dry humor make for a captivating view but he’s the most astounding when he bares himself open for the world to see.
Wonderfully filmed and constantly engaging, To Hell and Back: the Kane Hodder Story peels back the mask of one of horror’s most recognizable and beloved icons to reveal the emotional and meaningful humanity of horror. Inspiring, life-affirming, and beautifully crafted, it’s the kind of documentary that highlights the importance of horror as a genre, as a form of art, and as a means of catharsis. If Kane Hodder can endure such pain throughout life and find beauty and joy in facing death time after time, perhaps we can too.