Women: You can’t live with ‘em, and you can’t live without ‘em.
OK, that may not be an ‘80s thing to say, but it must be the way our boy Jason feels in Friday the 13th, Part VII. After he’s brought up out of his watery place of respite by a young woman with strange mental powers (Lar Park Lincoln of House II: The Second Story), that same woman spends the rest of the picture trying to do away with him in a variety of spectacular ways. It’s an unusual spot for Jason to be in, and one of the things the 6-foot-2, 205-pound stuntman/actor Kane Hodder likes about the new movie.
“Usually,” comments Hodder, the screen’s seventh and newest Jason, “a couple of things happen to Jason, but mostly he’s killing people, and so the stunts happen to other people. This time, he has a lot of things happen to him. Jason runs into a girl who is kind of his match, with his physical power against her mental powers. She brings him back, out of anger, and then she wishes she hadn’t. There’s quite a battle there, because she can make things happen with her mind.”
That includes turning Jason into an approximation of Michael Jackson’s head in the famous Pepsi commercial. “There’s one time where the girl causes me to catch on fire, and I did a very large burn as Jason,” he discloses. “I’m totally engulfed in flames, but as I’m moving around you can still see my face, and you can see that it’s Jason. I do a lot of fire stunts. That’s one of my specialties, but this was one of my better ones, because there was so much fire. A very large burn like that is one of the most dangerous stunts you can do.”
The amiable Hodder should know. A stuntman for the last dozen of his 32 years, he has worked in close to 30 features and about the same number of television shows, beginning with an episode of Emergency when he was 20. His genre work began with The Hills Have Eyes 2, followed by the two House films and a pair for Empire, Prison and the upcoming Ghost Town. On all but Hills Have Eyes 2, he carried the title and responsibilities of stunt coordinator; in Prison, he also played the part of Forsythe, the vengeful undead convict. As a matter of fact, Hodder points out that a couple of the most spectacular FX photos in Fango #70’s layout on Prison were, in fact, him.
“I love doing horror movies,” he asserts, “because they’re always full of action. And I enjoy doing the monster parts, too.”
That’s true even when the part may call for something that many people, stuntmen or otherwise, might find a bit, well, extreme—for instance, something that occurred during the filming of Prison, in which Hodder found himself imitating a largemouth bass at suppertime. “There was a scene toward the end of the movie where my character comes up through the ground, seated in an electric chair, and he’s been underground—dead, buried, whatever—for a number of years. So when we did the scene where I had already crashed through, they were putting dirt all over me, and also worms—big, live nightcrawlers. That was so there would be some of them squirming around on my body when I stood up and screamed.
“I came up with the suggestion to put some of those worms in my mouth, because I thought it would be good for them to come squirming out of my mouth when I started screaming,” Hodder relates. “So we did it, and it repulsed most everybody on the crew, but to me it wasn’t a big deal. They were about five or six inches long, big fat ones, so there were only about four or five of ‘em, and I had them washed off. Still, we had a bit of a hard time putting the worms in my mouth, and trying to keep ‘em from going down my throat. . .” He pauses. “The worms were trying to get out, and I was trying to hold ‘em in until the cameras rolled.”
Unfortunately, all that effort may have gone for naught. “In the version I saw, you can’t really tell that they’re there, or that they’re alive, because they cut quickly back and forth between me and the person I’m yelling at. So it might’ve been a wasted effort, but I thought it was worth the try.”
This inventive, let’s-give-it-a-shot attitude impressed MMI head John Buechler on the sets of both Prison (see page 12) and Ghost Town, leading him to recommend Hodder for the part of Jason in Friday The 13th Part VII. Also helpful was the fact that Hodder is a proven stuntman with solid credits.
“I was recommended by John Buechler, when he got the directorial job on Part VII,” notes Hodder. “Since I had been the monster in prison, he knew that I didn’t mind wearing makeup, that I was comfortable in it. And he liked my stunt work and thought my size and shape would be conducive to Jason, so he suggested me at the beginning. Buechler and the producers knew that this Jason was going to have to do a lot more stunts, so they decided way before me that this Jason had to be a stuntman. It doesn’t make any sense to hire one person to do the killing as Jason and another person to do stunts. Jason doesn’t have dialogue, so it made sense to hire a stuntman to do the whole thing. Plus, I do all my own stunts.”
Hodder gives the MMI head good marks for his directorial efforts. “He’s probably one of the better directors, all-around, that I’ve worked with,” asserts Hodder. “He’s got an excellent sense of horror, and he’s very easy to work with, especially for a stunt person. When you’re doing scenes, a stunt person’s mind is always inventing other things—other stunts, other action things—and I could always bring them up to Buechler. He was always really receptive. Sometimes he would think the idea was good; sometimes it wouldn’t quite work, which was fine. But he was never against listening to my ideas, so to me he was real easy and real good to work with.”
One of the things Buechler and Hodder agreed on was a new approach to the Jason character. While this version of Jason isn’t exactly going to be Mikhail Baryshnikov, he is going to be a bit lighter on his feet. That’s something Hodder feels will make him even more menacing.
“When I started going through the motions of being considered for the part, I stated watching all the other Friday the 13ths to make sure I could see what I liked and didn’t like about the other Jasons,” explains Hodder. “My idea, and John Buechler’s idea, was that he should be a little less lumbering. I mean, he’s a large guy and he’s dead, so he’s got to be lumbering, to a point, but we thought he should be a little more agile, a little quicker on his feet. We thought it would be more horrifying that way. You really can’t get away from him. Once he gets something in his mind that he’s going to do, he’s unstoppable, like a tank.
“He also seems smarter. From the way he catches people and stuff, Jason seems more like he knows what he’s doing. There’s a fine line between looking a bit more agile and not looking like a killer, you know, looking too much like a dancer or something. I didn’t want him to be too lumbering, and I didn’t want him to be too light on his feet. So I had to figure out a nice in-between thing to do.”
The film was shot in Alabama (“And it was cold,” attests Hodder), and when he showed up on the set, it must’ve seemed like old home week. There was Buechler, with whom Hodder had worked in Prison and Ghost Town. There, also, was MMI and Greg Johnson, an alumnus of those two pictures, doing Hodder’s makeup. Joining them was Lincoln, an acquaintance of Hodder’s from House II, and Kevin Blair playing the male lead. Hodder and Blair had worked together in The Hills Have Eyes 2, in which Blair rated similar billing.
Also present was stuntman Alan Marcus, Hodder’s friend and co-worker, who was at least partly responsible for some of the livelier moments on the Part VII set. “Alan doubled for Kevin Blair and another actor, and then at the end of the show, he’s the last one I kill. He did a number of good stunts,” praises Hodder. “I was doing one stunt with Alan in which he’s on the end of the pier. I have to grab him and throw him backwards off the end of the pier, and he has to land in a rowboat. The cameras were in the rowboat and in the boat next to it. The way things were positioned, everyone was concerned that he wouldn’t go far enough to make it into the boat. So I told him to really make sure he went far enough. When we did it the first time, he went so far that he landed between the two cameras in the boat, and they missed the shot. It could’ve been bad, but it turned out pretty funny.
“There was a thing where he plays a fisherman in a boat, and he reels in this big fish,” Hodder goes on. “We had a big 6-pound catfish for him to reel into the boat, and I was waiting underwater, next to the boat. The shot consisted of him getting the fish into the boat, into the right position, then sitting down where I could reach him so I could grab him and pull him under. But he had trouble with the fish. It was so big and fighting so vigorously that he was all over the boat trying to get it in. Meanwhile, I’m waiting underwater, wondering why it’s taking so long. Finally, the fish just broke off the line and ended up back in the lake. After the fist got away, he sat down in the boat, frustrated. I started to come up and gram him, and then I realized we didn’t get the rest of the shot. We brought in a stunt fish, a double fish that wasn’t quite as big or as feisty as the first one, and then the shot worked fine.”
Besides Alan Marcus and his adventure in the boat, there are plenty of other stunts and FX in Part VII. At one point, for instance, Jason has a 700-pound porch roof collapse on him and drive him into the ground, a feat that was accomplished by use of lightweight materials rigged to fall simultaneously. But, as hard a slog as Jason has in this one, the new crop of victims has an even rougher time of it. Seventeen characters meet their ends at the hands of Jason in Part VII, and Hodder holds the accompanying special makeup FX in high esteem.
“That’s also a reason I’m so excited about the film, because some of the kills were quite inventive, and the ways MMI did the makeup effects were really amazing. For instance, the squeezing of one guy’s head was real good,” he enthuses with a laugh. “That’s all I’ll say about that. Then there’s another guy who’s out in the woods carrying an armload of wood, and all of a sudden he ends up with a third arm. And watch for the party horn—there’s a plastic party horn in the film, and an interesting way of inserting it into someone’s head. I also use a gasoline-powered garden tool in a unique way. There are so many of ‘em; I always like working with MMI because they’re real good at what they do.”
One of the death scenes, Hodder reveals, ended up the way it did by accident rather than by design. “There was one of the kills in which I take a girl in her sleeping bag and slam her against a tree. We had a dummy in the sleeping bag for some of the shots, and then, when we were going to have blood start seeping through the bag, we put a different dummy in there with blood on it, so that when I started hitting the tree, the blood would start coming through the sleeping bag. I didn’t realize, nor did anyone else, that the extra stuff inside and the way the blood settles in the end of the bag would make it weight twice as much. I was used to slamming this certain weight powerfully against the tree, and then all of the sudden I pick up this thing up and it feels like a real person, and I couldn’t wield it very well. I was off balance and trying to look powerful, slamming this thing and getting frustrated at the same time. I ended up getting really frustrated and slamming the thing down on the ground and kicking it, just because I was mad that it wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. That’s the shot they ended up using. It looks so angry because I actually was.”
In addition to the crew at MMI, co-star Lar Park Lincoln gets especially high marks from Hodder. “She just did a great job,” he maintains. “Her character is constantly hysterical, and that’s hard to keep up. But she did it real well. She is going to get some good response to this.”
And what about Hodder himself? Perhaps his portrayal of Jason will lead the stuntman to other acting parts as well? It’s possible that it could even lead him to something that has never happened before: an assignment as Jason in the next Friday the 13th, making him the first actor to ever repeat the role. Would Hodder be interested?
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