I've been waiting for this all year. After two interviews with director Vincente Disanti and a ton of teaser material put out by Womp Stomp Films, I can honestly say I've been looking forward to this Friday more than most. You see, this Friday is the release of the long awaited fan tribute short film Never Hike Alone.
Friday the 13th is arguably the most significant horror property since the Universal Studios monsters first graced the silver screen. Over the years I've seen plenty of low budget fan films that try to pay homage to the outright campiness of the B film they're based upon or they try to exploit the franchise in some gritty, in your face dark reboot meant to wring a few dollars out of fans at the box office.
Wait, sorry, that's the major studios. My bad.
Never Hike Alone is absolutely everything Friday fans have been dying to see on screen since the lackluster 2009 reboot flopped. The story follows Kyle, an experienced outdoorsman recording his adventures with a GoPro for an audience online. As he sets off on a hike through the rugged terrain of the Catskills audiences get a chance to get to know and empathize with the character. Instead of a 2-dimensional piece of monologuing mobile scenery, we get a human connection that means something to us. It makes it all the more gut wrenching as he crosses a No Trespassing sign and stumbles into the blood saturated remains of Camp Crystal Lake and its ghoulish protector. Endangered by his indiscretion and fueled by the primal fear of seeing a campfire tale come to life, Kyle becomes locked in a one on one struggle for survival against the unstoppable Jason Voorhees.
Here, in no particular order, is what makes Never Hike Alone one of the best slasher films I've ever watched. To start with, Vincente Disanti and the folks at Womp Stomp spared no expense where it mattered most. Using every last cent of a small budget to their advantage they focused on creating an atmosphere of suspense and tension like few movies can. This easily could have ended up a straight man against nature survival horror story and it would have been amazing. But they took the time with the script, scouted locations and put in the work to make this a cohesive blending of subgenres. Where most people would have made a straight found footage piece with hackneyed references to past murders used to shoehorn in a Friday the 13th connection, Disanti and his team decided to make a horror film that lives up to its source material.
Speaking of source, beyond a unique and clever backstory about the Voorhees murder spree, the set was dressed in a way that will give hikers and urban explorers alike a thrill. Filmed in an actual abandoned camp ground, the scenes are exactly what you can imagine walking into a place that simply stopped immediately following a tragedy. There are ghosts in every bunk and around each corner, not to mention a machete wielding maniac. The special effects and makeup are equally impressive and, honestly, spoil us a bit as viewers. I mean, when's the last time you could say you saw a film that was truly well written, performed, and designed to be visually pleasing? The makeup and costuming on Jason was spectacular and worked flawlessly with the vision being brought to life.
The music is also worth mentioning is the original score that honors the legacy of Friday the 13th while creating something totally unique.
Never Hike Alone is the Friday the 13th film that we need. I don't know a better way to say it. Combining a legendary character with an original story, brilliant performances, great effects, and heart stopping levels of suspense, it's a film not to be missed.