There is often more to a beloved icon than meets the eye. In his 2011 autobiography, Unmasked: The True Life Story of the World’s Most Prolific Cinematic Killer, stuntman and actor Kane Hodder bravely pulls back the curtain on the hardships that he has faced in his life and career to show fans a new side to the man behind the mask. The book was written by author Michael Aloisi, but narrated to him by Hodder. When you finish reading Unmasked, you won’t just look at Hodder as the man who played the best Jason Voorhees–you’ll see a man who has been to hell and back, and, because of that, a man who continues to remain grateful for the life he has now.
The book begins with a foreword by director Adam Green. He tells the story about how he almost met Hodder when he was 15 years old at an appearance, not knowing that years later he would play a pivotal role in Hodder’s life when he asked Hodder to star in his first feature film, Hatchet. In the foreword, Green shows great reverence for his friend, both in the professionalism of his work and who he is as a person.
Then Hodder takes over for the rest of the book, telling his life story in his own words. The book is under 400 pages, and believe me, they fly by. I got the book in the mail on a Tuesday and was done with it by Thursday, completely engrossed by these stories I have never heard before. As it is in Hodder’s own voice, Unmasked is very real in its colloquial style, never feeling dense or bloated. This is just Kane telling it like it is, from his perspective and with his honest thoughts and opinions about particular situations. Though it sometimes reads as if he is uncomfortable with being so honest, Hodder should know how appreciated this is, because I’m sure that his stories will be inspirational to anyone who has ever gone through something similar to what he did.
Perhaps what fans will find the most surprising about Unmasked is how Hodder was bullied as a child. The book opens with a particularly heinous beating he took from three older kids when he was just ten years old. Fans see him on screen killing dozens of people in several movies, but to read that this tough guy who falls off buildings for a living went through that endears me to him as a person all the more. It’s just one of the many things in Unmasked that will help you to understand Hodder, and from where his ambitions and motivations come.
The most heartbreaking and at times infuriating part of Unmasked is when Hodder tells the horrific story of his burn injury at the beginning of his career. A fire stunt that he performed as part of a photo shoot went horribly wrong, and Hodder ended up with burns over 50% of his body. The heartbreaking part comes from him telling about the unimaginable pain he was in for months while in the hospital recovering, and his deep depression about it. The infuriating part comes from how he was treated at the hospital, under the care of a doctor who didn’t really know what he was doing. His candidness about this incident is brave and inspirational, showing that you can go through the most horrible of circumstances and still find a way to come back from it and live the life that you want to live. Hodder admits to being embarrassed to reveal a compulsion he has that came from his burn injury, but again, I commend him for including it in the book. In telling these life experiences, you never know who you are going to touch or help.
But the book is not all doom and gloom. Hodder talks about his interesting early life growing up on a small island with his parents, falling in love with stunt work, and the path that he took to make his dream a reality. The book is also broken up with a few entertaining stories about random fights he has gotten into over the years, and which of these rounds he thinks he won or lost. There are equally great stories of the people he has worked with and the stunts he has performed in many films, some of which were surprises to me. Kane is also a consummate prankster on his film sets, and he seems gleeful when talking about just how much he likes messing with people. Some of the funniest instances of this are from the sets of the Friday films, and how Hodder would terrify random people or even children while in his Jason get-up.
One thing I enjoyed reading was just how much Kane really loves Jason Voorhees. A longtime fan of the genre, he was very serious in his creation of the character, which is probably why everybody considers him the best person to ever play the part. As Adam Green says quite adamantly in the foreword, “Kane Hodder is Jason Voorhees.” And when he was unceremoniously shut out from playing Jason again in Freddy vs. Jason, Hodder found a new monster in Victor Crowley. He shows great appreciation for this second chance at being a horror icon, and for the opportunity to do some acting without the makeup and prosthetics–something that he will hopefully do more of as his career continues.
Unmasked is a book that I would highly recommend to all fans of Kane Hodder, or to anyone that has ever suffered a serious burn injury or been the victim of bullying. The reality that he provides in the telling of his experiences with these situations brought tears to my eyes several times, and made me appreciate and respect Hodder and his work even more. I read the book in anticipation of meeting Hodder at Texas Frightmare Weekend this May, and I know that meeting will have so much more meaning now. We may love Kane Hodder when he is playing Jason Voorhees or Victor Crowley, but I’m positive that you will love him even more after seeing him Unmasked.