Monday, October 13, 2014

Great Horror Performances: Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees

by Heath Holland
His name IS Jason.

When it comes to the monsters that haunt our dreams, none are as crazy and or unrelenting as the slashers are. You know who I’m talking about: Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Jason Voorhees, not to mention all those knock-offs and imitators that follow you into your dreams and hidden places. Slashers know where to find you when you least expect it and when you thought you were at your safest. They’re also the most enduring and iconic cinematic monsters to come along in decades, and they are as big a part of our modern Halloween as Dracula and Frankenstein. It’s kind of ironic that, even though these monsters couldn’t be any more famous, the only actor to ever really get mainstream recognition for his performance as a slasher is Robert Englund, the man behind Freddy Krueger.
Outside of Robert Englund as Freddy, slasher killers in the famous movies have rarely been played by the same actor more than once. It was a disposable role for stunt men, more like an afterthought than the first role to be filled. There were a few occasions when an actor was asked to step back into the costume twice, but those recognizable killers were almost always played with anonymity by whoever fit the suit. It’s largely an unsung job with very little glory. After all, do we care who’s in the outfit and the mask? What really matters is all the horror and the gore, not to mention the clever and entertaining kill scenes, right? It’s not about an actor giving a performance.

Only, it IS about an actor giving a performance, as Mr. Englund can tell you. Horror movies rise to the top when they have great performances.

Wanna see a great horror performance? Watch Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees in the last four self-contained Friday the 13th movies. Hodder made his debut as Jason in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood and the difference in the character is actually visible on screen. Before Hodder, Jason had gained or lost weight and muscle depending on the actor that was underneath all that stuff. The previous installment of the series, Part VI: Jason Lives, actually used two separate actors as Jason. Most of the time, Jason Voorhees just looked like a very tall guy in a jumpsuit. He usually had broad shoulders and a trim waist. Jason Voorhees? WAY into CrossFit.
By contrast, in The New Blood, Kane Hodder’s Jason is built like a brick shithouse and looks just as wide and as thick as he is tall (he’s 6’2”, which is actually kind of small for masked serial killers that can’t be killed by conventional methods). Jason didn’t look like a man in a jumpsuit and a white hockey mask anymore; now he looked like a tree trunk. A very pissed off, sadistic tree trunk. If it’s possible, I feel like Hodder’s Jason seemed to actually get bigger and wider as the series progressed, and I don’t mean that Jason looked like he’d been visiting the Country Kitchen Buffet more than he should have. This Jason seems like it would take a tsunami wave to knock him down, and maybe not even that could do the job.

It goes beyond the physicality that Kane Hodder brought to the role, though. When you give an actor more than one shot at bringing a character to life, you’re also giving them ownership and investment in that character. Hodder BECAME Jason in the best possible way. It gave him incentive to put every bit of his personality into the role and to make sure that everything he did when he was in that makeup was as great as possible. It became more than a job; it became a true performance. When you see behind-the-scenes footage of Hodder, he talks about how he became Jason when that mask went on and how much fun he had scaring the kids in the movie. As Hodder starred in more Jason films, he began to be identified with the role by the fans, as well. His willingness to be associated with the role and his promotional appearances in and out of the suit made him a hit with the fans, so much so that when he wasn’t cast as Jason for the 2003 Freddy vs. Jason film, it angered an entire community of horror enthusiasts. Hodder has become an icon in the same vein as Robert Englund. And outside of Robert Englund, I can’t think of a single horror actor who has such a busy schedule and makes as many appearances and guest spots as Hodder does. Of course the fans love him. He’s one of us.
Hodder hasn’t portrayed Jason in a Friday the 13th film since 2001’s Jason X. He’s gone on to other things, most notably starring as a different slasher, Victor Crowley, the monstrous killer in the three Hatchet films. He continues to establish himself as a horror icon and one of the great monster actors of our generation. If you watch all of the Friday the 13th films consecutively, there’s simply no denying that Hodder’s Jason stands out as being scarier and more imposing than any of the others. That’s not a coincidence. Many actors have donned the hockey mask, but there’s only one Jason Voorhees. His name is Kane Hodder.


  1. I'm with you pal. Kane hodder is brilliant.

    " A very pissed off, sadistic tree trunk"

    That made me cough up my drink of tea. Very english I know

    It Also works brilliantly as a nice seven word review.

    1. There are WAY too many horror movies that we could use "a very pissed off, sadistic tree trunk" as a seven word review for.

  2. me as far as "Jason" performances there's Ari Lehman, Richard Brooker (because he keeps forgetting to limp in some scenes at the end after Chris stabbed Jason in the leg) and the rest of them.

  3. I just watched the Kane Hodder Fridays for the first time and while the movies he's in aren't the best, I think he is for sure my favorite portrayal of Jason. His zombie Jason is a brutal bad ass and I just love watching him on screen. Watching behind the scenes interviews Kane seems like an awesome guy and it's cool that he gets so involved in the character and the process of bringing Jason to life. Great to see him get some love here, thanks Heath.

    1. You're right, Travis. He didn't have the best material to work with, but he really gave it everything he had, and that shows in what he brings to the table. He seems like a really cool dude.

  4. So true Heath - I was saving your article for when I finally got to Part VII (I'm slightly regretting my decision to tackle this franchise - it's been a bit of a slog) and you are so right - it's like all of a sudden Jason makes some kind of sense once Hodder is behind the mask. Watching the other ones when he's walking around looking like a Eddie Bauer model with a mask, it just doesn't jive somehow. Though he truly becomes Jason "the monster" in Part VI, I don't think he really becomes a (rotting) fleshed-out character until Hodder's PERFORMANCE (the key word - everyone else just seemed to be serviing a purpose) in Part VII - good call!