I’m a madman, so I’m returning to Camp Crystal Lake for a 13th time for the fan film Never Hike Alone. I’ve seen some of these horror fan films before, and I normally wouldn’t indulge to this extent, but it was well-recommended by the Halloweenies horror podcast, and seems well-regarded within the Friday the 13th community. It does have nearly 1.7 million views on YouTube, with 68,000 positive upvotes.
The fan film was released on Oct. 13, 2017 by Womp Stomp Films, and is directed and co-written by Vincente DiSanti. Nathan McLeod is the co-writer.
The most notable thing about this fan film is that, even though it’s a fan film, Thom Matthews, who played Tommy Jarvis in Jason Lives, has a cameo appearance in this. How cool is that?
And the other notable thing about this is that DiSanti plays Jason Voorhees. That’s rather neat. This film is a love letter to the Friday the 13th film franchise and he gets to step into the blood soaked, swampy shoes of Jason Voorhees himself.
Did I mention that this is freely available on YouTube? Because it’s freely available on YouTube:
So since it’s a fan film, and it’s not like there’s a Wikipedia for this, I can’t do my usual deep dive into the development, production and on-screen actors for this. For that reason, maybe I’ll get out of this review/running commentary at less than a 1,000 words for once? [Narrator: Circling back to this, he did not make it under 1,000 words. Whoops.]
The synopsis on the film reads, “A fan tribute to Friday the 13th, Never Hike Alone follows an adventure blogger, Kyle McLeod (Andrew Leighty), who uncovers the long lost remains of Camp Crystal Lake while on a solo backpacking trip. Ignoring the campfire tales from his childhood, Kyle’s search turns deadly when he makes the grave mistake of crossing the path of Camp Blood’s legendary mass murderer, Jason Voorhees. Stranded in the forest with Jason on his heels, Kyle must push his survival skills to their limits if he hopes to survive the night. Otherwise, he’ll wind up as another lost victim of the cursed camp.”
As a premise, that’s a change from what we’ve gotten before, where it’s always an ensemble of kids heading out to party and they get butchered. In this case, we have an adventure blogger out in the woods doing his thing. But, also, since other films in the franchise, like the remake, have played up Jason Voorhees’ survivalist skills, it’s interesting to then make him go up against someone who also has survivalist skills. In other words, I’m not sure we’ve had a character face Jason Voorhees yet who is as comfortable in the woods and nature as he is. That’s what gives Jason Voorhees an advantage, typically. So I’m intrigued.
Also, from a technical standpoint, that gives the filmmakers the chance to do some stuff we also have never seen in a Friday the 13th film, mainly, a lot of handheld camera action, with Kyle running around with his blogging hiking adventures.
At 53 minutes, that’s darn near a full-on Friday the 13th length film. If they added about 15 more minutes, you’re right there in the sweet spot.
Dang, props to the graphics department for Womp Stomp Films, as the opening title sequence is fantastic, with the glowing 3D effect for the lettering of the title, and Jason Voorhees’ silhouette in the middle.
Someone smarter than I am can correct me if I’m wrong, but this might be the first film in the entire franchise (and I know it’s not considered canon) to actually give us a nice wide establishing shot of Crystal Lake! I appreciate that table-setting.
They’re doing a good job of building tension … in the daylight.
Something new brought in for the “campfire story” aspect of this, which is something they’ve always made Jason Voorhees out to be — just a scary campfire story — is actually having Kyle investigate Camp Crystal Lake. I like it being this deserted, spooky old camp.
Whoa, so Kyle finds where Jason Voorhees has been staying, which includes his mother’s corpse. Jason Voorhees then attacks him from behind through a sheet, but the blogging camera is still on. The whole effect looks great, and then the stunt of Kyle getting thrown out of the second story of the cabin looks brutal, albeit, survivable.
I am impressed. Whoever did the fight scenes and stunt work on this is fantastic. Kyle and Jason Voorhees get into a bit of fisticuffs, with none of Kyle’s punches doing any damage until Jason Voorhees backhands Kyle halfway across the area into a tree.
And the makeup work and mask work on Jason Voorhees looks as good as you might see in a professional film. I don’t know how tall DiSanti is, but the camera work makes him look 8 feet tall. It’s a nice vantage point.
We then get some nice tension-filled close calls between Kyle and Jason Voorhees, where Kyle by the skin of his teeth is able to escape Jason Voorhees … for now.
The dude (Kyle) is out here sewing back together his leg after running over barbwire. That’s the survivalist type skill I’m looking for. Not to say nothing of the grit it takes.
That was another cool effect we’ve never seen in one of these films: Kyle hits Jason Voorhees with an ax to the side of the neck, and Jason Voorhees gushes blood through the holes of his hockey mask. That’s an awesome visual.
We reach the part at the end where somehow an ambulance with three paramedics, including Tommy Jarvis, have picked Kyle up in the woods. How? Nobody knew he was out there, unless his blog goes out live at the time he records and someone called an ambulance for him? Also, the dialogue is a bit rough between the two non-Jarvis paramedics.
Jarvis saves the day, though, and him and Kyle are able to get away.
Overall, I’m impressed. There’s a lot of good work here: Andrew Leighty’s acting as Kyle is believable and authentic; the special effects on the kills and the wounds are well-done; the fight scenes between Jason Voorhees and Kyle are entertaining and handled well; there are some innovative concepts brought into this, like the gushing blood mask, the survivalist vs. survivalist angle (although they could’ve played that up even more than they did), and building some nice tension in the daytime.
Another new aspect of the film that we don’t see in any of the other films is that we don’t have an ensemble here. Until the final few minutes, we have Kyle for the first half of the film and then Jason Voorhees. A two-man vehicle, and granted, its runtime is shorter than a traditional Friday the 13th film, but that’s impressive all the same. I was never bored.
If I had a gripe, my only gripe is that actually the last five or so minutes are much weaker than the rest of the film. The ending didn’t pack the punch I was looking for. An ambulance shows up out of nowhere, Jason Voorhees attacks Jarvis, but then gets distracted apparently by the other two paramedics, and Jarvis is still okay, and drives away. It just didn’t work for me as an ending, but the rest of the film is well-shot, well-directed, well-lit, well-acted, and commendable as a fan film. This would be right at home with any film in the franchise and official canon.
Also, as it happens, Womp Stomp Films released a trailer for the sequel (although the description makes it seem more like a prequel): Never Hike in the Snow: A Friday the 13th Fan Film. In other words, bringing fans something they’ve always wanted to see: Jason Voorhees in the snow. Forget space, we just want snow!