by Heath Holland
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.
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.
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.
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.