When it comes to horror, only one man makes a presence that causes an audience to both cheer and shudder with fear. Not the tallest of Horror Icons, but still just as menacing comes a man with power, precision and without a doubt some of the most fantastic kills the horror industry has ever seen. This month's Horror Icon goes to Kane Hodder.
Born on April 8 in 1955, baby Kane Warren Hodder made his first mark on the world. Born in Auburn, California, Kane was a self-described normal kid, although he does quote himself as being a bit skinny and small for his age. According to his book 'Unmasked: True Life Story Of The World's Most Prolific Cinematic Killer' Kane states that his size as a child made him a target for taunts and teasing among his fellow school mates. (I bet none of them would pick on him now)
After going through a severe beating in fifth grade where both his eyes were almost swollen shut, chunks of his hair were missing, his lips were, quote “The size of sausages” and his nose had looked like someone had taken a cheese grater to it, Kane found himself suffering from nightmares about that horrendous afternoon. His attackers were never caught so all these years, Kane has been left with one question: Why? Why was he the target for such a brutal beating.
But in the end, that beating was a blessing in disguise. Kane is famously known for playing psychos like Jason Voorhees and more recently, Victor Crowley. The anger and hatred he has towards those 'big kids' that beat him helps him create characters that terrify audiences world wide.
From a young age, Kane was attracted to the dark side and horror elements. From a near-fatal accident in his garage at the age of nine while preparing a Halloween haunted house (Kane wanted to hang himself to freak people out, only to discover that he almost succeeded when the rope he was using caught on a nail, almost killing him) Kane felt invincible. A rush would over come him whenever his life was in danger and no doubt lead to him becoming a highly respected stuntman.
So where did Kane's career begin? When he saw a flyer in the dorm hallway of his college that simply said 'Extras needed for movie filming in Reno.' The film was California Split starring Elliot Gould and George Segal. If you're looking for Kane, search the crowd in the casino. He's in there.
But it wasn't until a trip to Universal Studios at the age of 19 that saw Kane crash tackle Hollywood head on. After watching the Silver Slipper Saloon show and seeing people falling, diving, flipping and being dragged, a light went off in Kane's head. Stunt work was something he could do. After all the childhood dangers and the rush he had felt, he knew it was something he could do and do well. Plus he'd get paid for it.
After the show had ended, Kane ended up having a quick chat to one of the stuntmen. Kent Hays told Kane that every little boy wanted to be a stuntman, but after looking Kane in the eye, his voice changed as he informed him that there was a school in Santa Monica that trained people for stunt work. He also told Kane that while the school can teach him what he needed to know there was no guarantee that he'd become a stuntman because he would have to prove himself first.
While he couldn't afford to pay for the classes, Kane did manage to score an opportunity to attend the school on the off days and learn from the students that were there. They took him under their wings and pretty soon he became friends with a couple of them. (Fun Fact: One of his friends was Tom Morga who was Jason Voorhees in Friday The 13 Part V)
In 1977, after receiving his SAG card, Kane was offered stunt work for the TV show Emergency! The stunt in question was for Kane to lie perfectly still, pretending to be unconscious. He was an oil rig worker who got caught in an explosion and was knocked out. Now that doesn't exactly scream stunt worthy, but when you consider he was on top of a tower with another worker while the bottom of the tower was engulfed by flames....you can see where I'm going with that.
The rest of the cast was to throw a wire across from the other tower and Kane's character was to be airlifted to safety, all the while the fire burns brightly.
The other man on that 'oil rig' with Kane was a fellow stuntman, Charlie Picerni. And while Kane didn't know who Charlie was, he did know that Charlie was well on his way to becoming a legendary stuntman. (Fun Fact: Charlie and Kane would later work together in Lethal Weapon 3, The Last Boy Scout and Demolition Man as well as a few other movies)
After his stint on Emergency! Kane found himself out of work again. He returned to his home in Nevada and ended up meeting some locals in Reno that did a Wild West stunt show called Yesterday's Guns. And while it was often a non-paying gig, Kane did learn a lot. For almost two years he stayed with Yesterday's Guns, all the while learning more about the world of stunts whether it was by reading about them or calling some friends back in Hollywood. Kane was very focused on the 'burn' stunt which saw a man engulfed by flames. Not being able to afford the proper equipment, Kane found an alternative way of creating the stunt. So when a local reporter called to ask if she could do an interview with the “local stuntman” Kane couldn't refuse. Little did he know it would change his life forever.
During the interview, Kane offered to perform a stunt and the stunt he had selected was the 'burn' stunt. The first day he tried the stunt for the reporter, it was rather windy and it didn't work as well as he planned. So when he was given a second chance, Kane jumped at the chance. But since he was broke at the time, the reporter offered to bring him rubber cement from the newspaper where she worked.
Kane has stated that he should have tested the rubber cement at the time, but he didn't and the result was the stunt going horribly wrong, leaving part of his body charred. Kane was jerked around a lot by doctors who clearly had no idea what they were doing and it has left him with large burn scars on 50% of his body. It would years before Hollywood would see Kane Hodder again.
In 1980 Kane returned to the stunt scene, wiser than before. His return was also marked with an uncredited appearance in Alligator.
In 1985 he helped perform stunts for the Wes Craven cult classic The Hills Have Eyes Part II. In 1986, Kane returned to horror, performing stunts for House. (Fun Fact: Around the same time as The Hill Have Eyes Part II, Kane played a henchman for the alien Willie in V. Willie was played by Robert Englund)
Being a large man both in height and muscle, Kane is always able to play roles as well as perform stunts. And in 1988, Kane donned a hockey mask (the first out of four times) to play one of horrors biggest icons: Jason Voorhees.
To quote Hatchet director Adam Green, “Kane Hodder is Jason Voorhees. Let me say it again. Kane Hodder is Jason Voorhees. Yes, other people successfully played the character before him and yes, other people have successfully played the character after him, but any Friday The 13 fan that has stuck with the series through thick and thin knows that no one personified and embodied that iconic character more so than Kane.” And while I personally have a dislike for Jason, I do agree with Adam's statement. To me, Kane will always be Jason Voorhees.
Now by this stage, Jason Voorhees had graced the screens the world over six times. This would be his seventh film, but this time they had a man who had the attitude that would change the way the world viewed our favourite movie psycho.
But what surprised me most was how willing Kane was to do a fire stunt. In Part VII we see Jason take on someone with telekinetic powers and ends up being set on fire after the character Tina sprays him with gasoline and lights him up by exploding the furnace. (Fun Fact: At the time of filming, this particular fire stunt was one of the longest fire stunts in history)
In 1989, Jason returned, as did Kane. This time the Camp Crystal Lake killer would take on the city of Manhattan. In 1988 Jason's popularity was at it's peak and people would line the streets of Manhattan hoping for a glimpse of the masked madman.
I have to take a moment now just to talk about one of my favourite scenes in Jason Takes Manhattan. The two leading characters, who have survived thus far are, running down a busy New York street. They run past a gang of street thugs. Jason follows, lumbering the way he does. In the process, he knocks the boom box the thugs were using. They call out to him, flashing their knives, threatening them. Jason turns back, lifts his hockey mask. The punks scramble to get away, telling Jason that “it's cool” before Jason turns to carry on with the chase. It was that moment for me when Jason went from uber zombie to full-rounded character.
In 1990, Kane took on the role of another horror madman. This time he provided the stunts for Leatherface in Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. (Fun Fact: Kane has played three horror bad guys. Jason, Leatherface and Kane provided the blink and you'll miss it image of Freddy's glove popping up at the end of Jason Goes To Hell)
In 1991 Kane found himself yet again face to face with a giant alligator in Alligator II: The Mutation. This time his role wasn't uncredited and was given an actual name. I will admit that it did take me a while to find him in it though.
As the 90's wore on, Kane returned to some of the horror movies of the past, performing the stunts for movies like 1992's House IV as well as making special appearances in movies like No Place To Hide (1993) and Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1994).
But in 1993 Kane appeared once again as everyone's favourite mama's boy, Jason Voorhees, in Friday The 13 Part IX: Jason Goes To Hell – The Final Friday. One of my favourite fun facts about this otherwise lacklustre film was the fact that Kane appeared without the Jason make-up as an FBI agent at the start. Irony set in when that FBI agent was killed by Jason.
In 1997 Kane took another acting gig, this time along side fellow horror icons in Tony Todd and Robert Englund in the movie Wishmaster. In this film, Kane is a security guard for the appraisal house that deals with antiques and gems. When the evil Djinn (Andrew Divoff) appears, ordering Kane to open the door, Kane refuses. The Djinn, disgruntled turns to leave despite needing to get inside. Kane scoffs and tells him, quote “Well you'll just have to go through me. And I would love to see that.” Despite not using the term “I wish” the Djinn is able to turn Kane into a pane of glass before walking through him, shattering the pieces. (Fun Fact: Kane was also credited with stunts for Wishmaster)
As the millennium rolled around Kane got more stunt work, namely dealing with Nic Cage and cars in Gone In 60 Seconds. It wasn't just the horror genre that wanted a piece of Kane. Action movies were also a big calling card for him.
But in 2002 Kane returned to the forum that we all know and love. Returning once more as Jason Voorhees, Kane was sent into space to kill the remaining Crystal Lake visitors in Jason X. Jason X had the largest on screen body count of any of the Friday The 13 films and had one of my personal favourite kills: The Sleeping Bag Kill. Kane picked up a girl who was hiding in her sleeping bag before slamming her into a tree over and over again. (I would like to point out that the kill was actually a sophisticated hologram)
Jason X performed poorly at box office despite Kane's return. I had hoped when Freddy Vs. Jason was announced that Kane would return to battle wits against Robert Englund's dream demon, but it was not meant to be and Kane was replaced by Canadian stunt man Ken Kirzinger. When asked about his thoughts on being replaced Kane said, quote “I guess they wanted Jason to look like a skinny little bitch this time. I won't be unemployed. But I will resent the hell out of the fact that somebody else is wearing that mask.”
As time moves on it would sometimes seem that Kane Hodder and his Nightmare counterpart, Robert Englund, are inseparable. From that initial contact in V through to both appearing in Charmed as well as movies like Wishmaster, 2001 Maniacs, Hatchet and Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon, these two know what it takes to scare the bejesus out of an audience. (Fun Fact: Kane Hodder's character in 2001 Maniacs was named Jason)
In 2006 Kane underwent a drastic make-over that made Jason Voorhees, sans hockey mask, look like a beauty pageant contender. Hatchet was born and so was horror villain, Victor Crowley. Kane was Victor, but he also appeared without all the make-up as Victor's father when the main character provides the audience with a back story into the legend of Victor Crowley. Just like Jason, there was something sympathetic about Victor, but there was also a real fear.
Victor Crowley hacked his way through a group of young people who became stranded in a swamp in Louisiana while out on a ghost tour. The victims included Scream 3's Deon Richmond, Buffy The Vampire Slayer's Mercedes McNab and, of course, horror legend, Robert Englund.
Kanes appearance in Hatchet was made more terrifying by the behind the scenes shown on the DVD. Before a take, Kane would yell and stomp around, pumping himself up to rip someone's head off. He would also avoid the cast (something that he's done since day one to make him seem more terrifying when he does appear) before scaring the absolute shit out of them. Of course, this was all done safely and is now something they can all laugh about.
It's not just fictional characters that Kane has dealt with either. While not completely accurate with history, Kane portrayed serial killer Ed Gein in Ed Gein: The Butcher Of Plainfield. (Fun Fact: Despite being labelled a serial killer, Gein had only confirmed two kills. His house, however, was a shrine of death, with corpses that he had dug up littering his property, their skin used to make many household objects from clothing to lamp shades etc.) He also tackled Ted Bundy in Bundy: A Legacy Of Evil, which surprisingly wasn't a bad film. Kane was the warden of the jail, talking to Bundy (Corin Nemec – who was a splitting image of Ted) before his execution. Like with the Ed Gein movie, this wasn't 100% in tune with what Bundy actually did, but it was rather entertaining, especially if you're like me and study serial killers for fun.
In 2009 Kane teamed up once again with Robert Englund for a mini web series entitled Fear Clinic. Playing a really creepy orderly, Kane was terrifying. There are almost no words to describe how scary he was. In fact, when he and Robert had a brief showdown I was preparing myself for Freddy Vs. Jason 2. Fear Clinic is highly underrated. Dealing with real phobias, Fear Clinic made people face their worst fears, often leaving them even more terrified.
One particular moment sticks out in my mind on just how evil Kane's character, Villatoro, was. Danielle Harris (Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers, Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers, Halloween 2007 & Halloween 2 2009) was scared of the dark. Knowing that, Kane approached her with a leering grin and told her to get ready. She started running towards a lit elevator just as he flipped out the lights in a cruel taunt.
In 2010 Kane returned to the Louisiana swamp for round 2 of the Hatchet series. While doing promotions for the film, Kane was quoted as saying “Victor makes Jason look like a pussy.” I never thought I'd agree with that statement, but after viewing Hatchet II I have to say that Kane was right. Victor Crowley was more menacing that ever before and his kills were more extreme than anything Jason could dream of.
At the moment, Kane is returning to the swamp once more for Hatchet III, proving that the bigger the evil, the more sequels they can obtain. He's also appearing in Danielle Harris' directorial debut, Among Friends as well as starring as Little John in Robin Hood: Ghosts Of Sherwood.
The word inspirational is thrown around a lot, but when Kane Hodder's name is mentioned in the same sentence, it's beyond understandable. For all that he's been through, Kane is stronger for it. His strength and determination has gotten him where he is today. Kane, if you ever read this, just know that you have inspired me. I beg readers of this article to pick up a copy of his book 'Unmasked: True Life Story Of The World's Most Prolific Cinematic Killer' for a more in depth look into his life.
Kane Hodder. His name draws images of strength, skill and power. Horror fans the world over know who he is. And there's no doubt in this fans mind that Kane and his performances will be remembered for all eternity.