Screamfest Review: ‘To Hell and Back’ Explores the Man Behind the Mask in New Kane Hodder Doc
By: J. Carlos Menjivar
Without a doubt Kane Hodder has cemented himself as an icon of horror and entered the pantheon of legends along the likes of Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Robert Englund, and many others. Having portrayed Jason Voorhees in the latter Friday the 13th films, and Victor Crowley in the Hatchet franchise, Hodder has been terrifying loving audiences for decades. Upon first impression we might think that we have Kane Hodder figured out, after all, it’s not hard to take a look at the imposing actor and conjure up our own narratives of how this person might live their life. The new documentary To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story seeks to explore the man behind the mask, taking the viewer to unexpected places and offering a look at Kane Hodder like we’ve never seen him before.
The documentary’s prime focus are two key events in Hodder’s life, which is great because the film is not hindered by your typical all inclusive life-spanning biography format, which tend to be superficial and shallow. Instead this documentary feels more focused, zeroing in on building the image of Hodder and adding depth and perspective to his personal and professional life. Through these two events we come to see how they shape his world view and attitude towards life. First off, as a young boy, believer it or not, Hodder was a victim of bullying. He shares with us the conflict within himself, as a child, and his feelings of embarrassment and guilt over not being able to do enough to stop the bullying at school.
However, no moment in the film is as gripping as Hodder recalling his grueling and agonizing accident in the 1980s when he was badly burned during a stunt (the second and perhaps most significant focus of the film). Hodder goes through the details, the painful recovery, and subsequent depression that included thoughts of suicide. The power of this story is Hodder’s way of elaborating and thus making it palpable and real; during his story Hodder breaks down into tears, a rare and intimate moment, and a glimpse into the fragility of humanity within all of us and the tenuous line between life and death. It is a beautiful moment of vulnerability to attach to an actor who’s fame has been that of slaughtering teenagers in brutal and sadistic ways on the screen.
To Hell and Back is a surprisingly touching and refreshing break from the great horror films Screamfest has to offer. The doc is very human and fully fleshes out a man, who despite playing one of the most vicious killers in horror film history, comes off as a kind and jubilant family man who’s dedicated to his craft and just as passionate about his fans. Director Derek Dennis Herbert beautifully manages and succeeds in unearthing a touching and humanistic portrait of one of our most treasured icons. Herbert is respectful of his subject and really let’s Hodder take the reins and tell his story, captivating his audience in a way that is unabashedly Kane Hodder. With the help of other titans of horror such as Bruce Campbell, Robert England, and Cassandra Peterson, To Hell and Back is a must see documentary, and not just for fans of Friday the 13th, but also for those who enjoy a heartfelt and emotional inspiring story that is true to life.
Keep the Fear Alive!