★★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Because hockey masks never go out of style.
I’m posting this review in trepidation. To post or not to post was the question that kept me up night after night. Not because of any backlash from our viewing audience, of course! All you loyal readers are angels. I’m talking about our Queen of Franchise Horror, Amy. Will I be incurring her wrath by posting this review? Are fan films considered part of the franchise? I suppose only time will tell. If you never see another post by me, I guess you’ll have your answer. However, as always, gentle reader, I’m happy to sacrifice myself for your edification. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!
I first heard about this Friday the 13th fan ‘featurette’ (since it’s technically about 54 minutes long) when it popped up in an Indiegogo campaign for a home video release. Writer/director Vincente DiSanti’s Never Hike Alone was never intended to be released in anything but a digital format. A true fan film made by the non-profit studio, Womp Stomp Films. They filmed this little gem entirely on the weekends since they all had day jobs and then released it for free on YouTube. How do they stay non-profit if they’re now selling DVDs and Blu-Rays on Indiegogo? Here’s what they say…
The Never Hike Alone project has always been one of passion and never about making a profit. After all, profiting off of fan fiction is illegal and something to be taken very seriously, especially when crowdfunding.
To remain non-profit for this campaign, Womp Stomp Films will be donating all left over funding to the United Way’s Thomas Fire Fund in order to support the ongoing relief efforts for the tragic events that took place in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties this past winter.
A worthy cause to be sure. And, as I’m writing this review, there are about 100 copies of the movie still available via the Indiegogo campaign. Just in case you’re interested in picking up a copy to add to your collection.
“But,” I hear you asking. “Is it worth it?”
If you’re a fan of the series, we’re talking about nigh unto 25 years since Mr. Voorhees appeared in a film that was worthy of his talent — and, yes, I’m ignoring the Nightmare on Elm Street crossover as well as the one involving the 25th century and nanotechnology. Even longer than 25 years since ol’ Hockey Face starred in a movie I didn’t feel obligated to watch just because I’d seen all the ones leading up to it. That is, until now. Born from a Kickstarter campaign, Never Hike Alone is what the Friday the 13th reboot should’ve been. From the old skool title graphics to the original music to the surprise guest star at the end, this little movie gets it all right.
Never Hike Alone opens with some great music and a driving scene reminiscent of The Shining. We’re then introduced to avid hiker and video blogger, Kyle McLeod (Drew Leighty). While Kyle does make full use of his GoPro camera, this isn’t a found footage movie. Having Kyle’s footage sprinkled throughout the film is a nice effect, though, helping to draw the viewer in. On this particular hike, Kyle is planning to take his viewers along a route from his book of hiking trails which should lead him down to a nice lake.
Naturally, those plans take a turn for the more interesting when he comes across a trail marker that isn’t referenced in his hiking book. Estimating that the direction is still roughly the way he wants to go, he decides to see where this forgotten trail will take him. A bit of a hike and one No Trespassing sign later, our friend Kyle finally makes it to the lake he was looking for. Even better, though, he comes across an abandoned camp of some kind situated right next to the lake. The Crystal clear Lake. <..cough…>
A bit later, our suspicions are proven correct when Kyle trips over the famous Camp Crystal Lake sign that used to mark the entrance to the camp, welcoming ill-fated camp counselors to their collective doom every summer. His curiosity piqued, hiker Kyle explores the old summer camp finding artifacts from the 80s, decades old crime scenes, and a really grouchy guy wearing a hockey mask. Jason Voorhees (played by the film’s director, Vincente DiSanti) introduces himself with his usual charm and the two men begin a whimsical game of “extreme tag”. That’s the one that involves bladed weapons and usually ends in death.
Production values for Never Hike Alone are amazing for a fan-made film. Heck, they’re better than some of the officially sanctioned low-budget movies being made these days. Due to licensing constraints, the budget for a fan film is limited to something like $50,000. This one was made for somewhere in the neighborhood of $40k and they somehow managed to get every penny’s worth of production quality out of each dollar they spent.
Plus, the old summer camp they use as Camp Crystal Lake is an actual abandoned summer camp they found out in the middle of nowhere just as they were starting production. The set dressing and minor modifications they made were clearly made by hardcore fans of the Friday the 13th series; from the pictures on the walls to the placement of the crime scene markers everything is spot on.
If you didn’t just cut outta here to watch the movie as soon as I mentioned it, for goodness’ sake go watch it now! It’s free and it’s great! With Never Hike Alone we finally have a movie worth resurrecting Jason for.
For those wanting the trailer first:
And here’s the full movie for all you daredevils that wanna just dive right in: