To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story (2017)

To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story first published by SciFiNow

“I still think it’s accurate to say I’ve murdered more people on film than any actor in history,” declares Kane Hodder right at the beginning of Derek Dennis Herbert’s To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story. “Unless anyone can dispute that, but I doubt it – and if you do, I’ll fucking kill you.”

The truth is, Hodder doesn’t even make the top 25, and if the following rapid splattery montage were instead to include all the on-screen kills executed by, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger (369), Chow Yun-Fat  (295) or Sylvester Stallone (267), this would have to be a much longer documentary (and it is already quite long). Still, you don’t want to quibble over numbers with Hodder. For a start, he comes across as such a genuinely nice guy, as well as such a highly committed ambassador of horror, that begrudging him the biggest body count just seems pettily vindictive. As the on-screen embodiment of both Jason ‘the Slaughter King’ Voorhees in Parts VII through X of the Friday the 13th franchise and of monstrous bayou killing machine Victor Crowley in Adam Green’s Hatchet series, Hodder may not have murdered the most people in movies, but he has certainly murdered many, and in the most memorably brutal and gory ways.

The documentary interweaves Hodder’s rise as a stuntman, stunt coordinator and genre actor with unexpected details from his real life – like the bullying he faced as a child, or the horrific physical and mental damage he sustained in an early fire stunt gone wrong. Extraordinarily, despite his burn scars and all the complications that emerged from these, Hodder still returned to full-body fire work – and it is to this, as much as to his characters’ infernal antics, that the documentary’s title alludes.

The charismatic Hodder tells much of his own story to camera, with additional contributions from the likes of Cassandra ‘Elvira‘ Peterson, Robert ‘Freddy’ Englund, Bruce ‘Ash’ Campbell, Bill ‘Choptop’ Moseley, as well as directors Green, John Carl Buechler, Sean S. Cunningham, Mike Feifer and Harrison Smith, and even Michael Aloisi, the co-author of Hodder’s memoir Unmasked. This is, after all, a story that Hodder has told before, and it is his skill, not to mention his considerable charm, as a raconteur which is the alluring epicentre of this otherwise broadly conventional, clips-and-talking-heads documentary. Towards the end, Hodder’s initial boast about on-screen murders is carefully modified: Hodder is the actor who has performed the most kills wth his bare hands. Even now, he is celebrated at conventions for putting his hands around the necks of fans and gripping them in a hard chokehold. That approach – getting up close and personal, with a sparkle in his eye and a waggish hint of real danger – also summarises his persona in this documentary. I’m still just that little bit worried that he may hunt me down and fucking kill me – which is precisely what makes him such a convincing on-screen slasher.

strap: Documentary homage to horror’s best stuntman, burnman and slaughter king.

© Anton Bitel