Exclusive: Interviewing the Creators of 'Never Hike Alone'
If you’re a kid who grew up hiking through the woods and camping out in the darkness under the stars, Friday the 13th is one of those films that just messes with you. Being alone in the raw, undisturbed depths of nature is a powerful experience but, with a vivid imagination and one of the greatest campfire tales ever told to play out in the back of your mind as you hike along those overgrown trails and wooded slopes can quickly turn a relaxing hike into a primal exercise in fear. Walking back home as the sun began to sink just over the tree line in that haze of dusk was always enough to make me look twice whenever I caught something out of the corner of my eye. Even now I sometimes get that feeling that someone, something, is watching me when I set off into the wild.
It’s a sensation that director Vincente DiSanti is happy to play off of in his short film, Never Hike Alone. The story follows Kyle McLeod, a solo hiker and explorer who stumbles across the remains of an abandoned summer camp with a long and bloody history attached to it. Locked away in the remote and forgotten about depths of the forest, the ruins of Camp Crystal Lake have sat undisturbed for nearly forty years with ghost stories and fading remembrance of that gore saturated rampage being more than enough to fuel a fear that has left the site abandoned by locals. Unfortunately for Kyle, his own curiosity is too strong and he soon finds himself trapped, alone in the most remote and isolated realm imaginable struggling for his own survival against something beyond the forces of nature. The 22 minute film promises to bring a new element of isolation horror to an already terrifying tale ingrained into our collective conscious.
After seeing the trailer, I was fortunate enough to have a chance to talk with the DiSanti, who also plays Jason, about the ambitious project.
DL- To start off tell me a bit about your career in film. What other films will our readers recognize you from?
Vincente Disanti- I began my career working in VFX and commercials before transitioning into feature animation. I had the opportunity to work on films such as Free Birds (2012), Rock Dog (2017), and Duck, Duck, Goose (2017). I was fortunate enough to work closely with several talented producers, directors, and story teams to develop those films from script to screen, however, my background and passion has always been driven towards live action. This year I decided to step away from animation so I could concentrate on it full time.
DL- The Kickstarter page and trailers have elements of isolation horror akin to those in The Martian and 127 Hours -a man trapped alone struggling to survive the forces of nature and circumstance. Never Hike Alone adds another element to that terror, though, with a very familiar face. How did this story come to life and go from clever idea to full production?
Vincente Disanti- It was an idea that came to me after doing a lot of hiking myself. I’ve always been a big fan of Friday the 13th, so naturally the thought came across my mind, “What would happen if a solo-backpacker wandered into Camp Crystal Lake?” Watching films like 127 Hours and The Martian were definitely huge inspiration for how the story could be executed from both story and technical aspects. Fear of isolation is scary enough on its own so when we added Jason into that equation, it became a unique, but plausible way to tell a Friday the 13th story.
DL- Is there a particular installment of the Friday the 13th franchise that helped to inspire the story?
Vincente Disanti- Even though Jason is only minor part of it, Part 1 plays a major role in this film. Much of the story focuses on Camp Crystal Lake itself and where it stands 37 years after the Long Night at Camp Blood.
In our lore, the original murders are a part of pop culture much like Jonestown, Charles Manson, and many other mass murder crimes of the 70’s and 80’s. However, from the perspective of our character in this “Friday universe”, the events that played out afterwards, parts 2-8, are too unreal to be taken as anything more than legend. I think it’s safe to say every town has its own ghost story or haunted house so that is why our character only sees Jason as folklore. To make that concept work, we spent a good amount of time grounding the film in the reality of the original murders, making it a plausible event. Once we established that, we could reveal that the legend and lore are more real than our character could ever imagine.
Dan- What do you think will make Never Hike Alone stand apart from other Friday the 13th fan films and the franchise itself?
Vincente Disanti- This will be one of the first Friday’s in a long time to spend a majority of the film inside the camp. Not only that but camp itself is as much a character in the film as Kyle McLeod or Jason Voorhees. In other films where the camp appears, it’s used as a temporary backdrop without ever really exploring what’s still there. In our film, I think fans of the series will appreciate that we stop to take a look around, to see what’s become of the camp before jumping into the action. There are definitely a lot of callbacks to the original film.
Dan- While it is a fan film and not official canon, how do you feel your film adds to the legacy of Jason Voorhees and the legends of Camp Crystal Lake?
Vincente Disanti- With Jason, our goal is to build on top of how dangerous and unstoppable he really is. Fans will recognize characteristics from the original films and how we are portraying him in Never Hike Alone as an ‘undead’ version of the character. To simplify our story we chose to ignore the concept of Camp Crystal Lake being re-opened as Camp Forrest Green. In this film, after the camp was shut down in 1980, it was done so permanently. This plays a big part in what our character finds during his exploration of the camp.
We do subtly elude to the fact that the citizens of Crystal Lake know there is a great evil at work in the area surrounding the camp and that there is no way to stop it. Their only hope to minimize the damage is to remove the camp and trails leading to it, from all maps and records.
Dan- You did a trailer for Never Hike Alone, sort of a proof of concept in order to generate some interest and funding for the project. Tell me about that experience.
Vincente Disanti- It is amazing how far the project has come since we made that trailer. At that time, it was only supposed to be a ten-minute short done by a handful of people. It was during the filming of that trailer when we were tipped off to the location of the abandoned camp. We were shown a map that dated all the way back to the 80’s that had the location of the camp and trails front and center. However, when we looked it up with modern day technology, all records and information were no longer there.
It took some time, but we eventually rediscovered the trails and found the camp which had been untouched since 1987. It was at that time we knew we had an opportunity to do something special so we pursued it. It’s taken a lot of hard work to clean up and rebuild parts of the camp for the film, but the effort was totally worth it.
Dan- Womp Stomp Films seems to have an amazingly talented crew and the Kickstarter describes you all as having a “…keen ability to tell character driven stories with a look that exceeds the expectations of its budget.” Judging from the trailer, that sounds pretty accurate. What can you tell me about the special effects?
Vincente Disanti- Working in the independent world often forces you to come up with creative, cost effective solutions to execute big ideas. A majority of the equipment we use can be accessed by most anyone. With that being said, in the hands of our team, those tools are used in a way that allows us to achieve a feature film look. When it comes to the effects, a majority of what you see is done practically in camera. Our make-up/FX artist Kesley Berk is an absolutely amazing artist. Most of what we are trying to raise is going to go towards her being able to purchase the equipment and materials needed to do the Friday the 13th label justice. When it comes to action, our stunt team is led by Jessica Bennett who helped us plan and stage the stunt and fight scenes you will see in the film. All of that action is captured practically with no additional vfx. In fact, the only computer VFX we have in the film are very minor and have nothing to do with Jason or scenes with gore. With that said, the film will go through an extensive post production process of color-correction and sound design.
Dan- For me the music is key. An atmospheric score can be one of the most crucial elements of a good film. What can you tell me about the music of Never Hike Alone?
Vincente Disanti- We are extremely lucky enough to have composer Joe DeBeasi scoring our film. He is a long-time industry veteran and is probably best known for his work scoring American Sniper. We are still a few months away from getting our hands dirty in terms of music, but what I can say is that Joe and I are both big fans of classic, orchestral horror scores. In addition to Joe, we have a super talented musician by the name of Trevor Vaughan who will be writing all of the original source music in the film.
Dan- I understand that there was an incident on set where you almost died. What happened?
Vincente Disanti- Those who have watched the trailer, or follow us on social media, know that we are using a 1970’s Ford Bronco as our character’s vehicle in the film. It’s an awesome car no doubt, but it is also prone to mechanical issues. One night while driving up a mountain road with my lead actor Andrew in the passenger seat, one of the Bronco’s tire rods snapped and I no longer had control of the vehicle. I braked as hard as I could, but we were on a corner and there just wasn’t enough distance to come to a safe stop.
Luckily, right before we were about to smash through the guardrail and roll down the cliff, the snapped tire rod caught on the pavement and jerked the wheels in the opposite direction. We ended up jumping back across to the other side of the road and into a small ditch. If that hadn’t happened, or if a car had come down the hill in the opposite direction, we’d be goners for sure. Dan- The abandoned camp looks amazing. It also looks exactly like the sort of creepy place where some deranged killer would be lurking and waiting for a group of campers (or filmmakers). Other than your near death experience, was there anything strange or unsettling that happened during the filming that might add some creepiness to the story?
Vincente Disanti- Lots of crazy things have happened on set since we’ve started filming. A pair of locals passing through the location one day told us the camp had been used for a drug growing operation. Apparently the DEA chased them out years ago, but we were warned that if we see anyone traveling up the hill with machine guns to vacate the premises immediately. This immediately went down into our ‘film ideas’ notebook.
There was another day during a set build where I cut my arm pretty bad on a piece of broken glass. It also happened at the start of our day, so instead of canceling the shoot, I just wrapped my arm in a towel and gaffers tape so we could finish out the day. We wrapped six or so hours later and it was only then that I let my producer take me to the hospital where I received 8 staples. Those events were well documented in our social media history if anyone cares to take a look.
Most recently, I was accidentally stabbed in the hand when we forgot to swap a prop knife during the scene where Jason grabs Kyle from behind the curtain. The outtake for that shot is pretty funny. The wound was not as severe as the cut on my arm, so we were able to finish out that day no sweat. Though it did hurt like a son of a bitch.
Aside from that, we’ve been lucky that no murderous psychos or cartel members have wandered out of the forest and taken out the crew. I have even dared to spend a few nights camping up there with my brothers. It truly is a creepy place but now it’s sort of becoming a second home.
Dan- Speaking of the camp, there’s also a philanthropic angle to this project that people may not be aware of. The plan is to help the Penny Pines Reforestation Project at the end of production? Tell me about those efforts and what fans can do to help.
Vincente Disanti- In the process of bringing Never Hike Alone to the crowd-funding arena, we saw a few fan films step out of the ‘unwritten rules’ of creating fan fiction and get slapped on the hand by the big studios. Learning from the mistakes of others, we knew we needed to ensure our backers, and especially the studios, that our intentions are in the right place. By donating our excess funds to Penny Pines, we see it as a thoughtful and transparent way to prove that we are doing this for the right reasons. The idea came as inspiration from a friend who co-founded the company Bureo Skateboards, which recovers discarded fishing nets from the oceans of Chile and re-purposes the materials into skateboard decks.
For us, Penny Pines was our way of paying forward that type of thinking. Yes, crowd-funding is helping us to do something that we love, but being able to tie that in with a foundation that directly gives back to the area we are using to film is what we think makes this project truly special. We encourage everyone to read more about and directly donate to the program at their official website:
The trailer looks amazing and, as a lover of practical effects in horror movies, I’m excited to see what Never Hike Alone is going to offer. If you haven’t already checked out the trailers online, what are you waiting for? The Kickstarter will be running through February 17th if you’re interested in supporting Desanti and crew’s vision and there are some pretty cool incentives to go along with it. I love short films. I’ve said (and written) many times over that some of the best frights on film in the last ten years have been from filmmakers working on projects like Never Hike Alone. Shorter films are often labors of love by talented artists who have a specific vision in mind. They’re entertaining, exciting, and give fans something special that larger studio productions seem to have forgotten how to do.
Never Hike Alone (starring Andrew “Drew” Leighty and Vincente Disanti) is in post-production and expected to be released later this year so be sure to follow them on social media (Facebook, Twitter, IG) @wompstompfilms for updates.
It should be noted that no questions were asked about the exact shooting location or the name of the abandoned camp site. Much like the original cabin from Evil Dead or the house from Friday the 13th Part 3, these are places that have been returned to nature and, unfortunately, lost due to human interference. While filmmakers and fans have taken great reverence of such places in the past, others have chosen to loot, vandalize, and damage the locations and the areas surrounding them, often leaving these locales in ruins in their wake. Take pride in your fandom and in the world around them. After all, you never know what you may find lurking in the woods when you’re all alone.
Dan Lee is a horror fiend and freelance writer with a special place in his heart for monster movies and demonic possession stories.