Director Vincente DiSanti
Genre Horror | Thriller
Cast Drew Leighty, Vincent DiSante, Kate Schwartz, Thom Mathews
Release Date October 13th, 2017 (Friday the 13th)
Written and directed by Vincent DiSanti, his directorial debut for a full-length film, Never Hike Alone is a fan made Friday the 13th film built from the ground up to satisfy a huge fan base. The film follows hiker and survivalist Kyle McLeod as he films a trek through the woods that inadvertently takes him to the infamous Camp Crystal Lake. McLeod heard the stories of Jason Voorhees and his mother Pamela growing up, but as an adult what used to scare him as a kid become more of a curiosity. Released by Womp Stomp Films, a Los Angeles based independent film company, the project was funded by a Kickstarter campaign consisting of 294 backers, raising a total of $18,934 with a goal of $13,000. The cast includes Drew Leighty as Kyle, director Vincent DiSante as Jason Voorhees, Kate Schwartz, Thom Mathews as Tommy Jarvis, and Robert DuBois.
A Kickstarter backed Friday the 13th fan film that exceeds all expectations, Never Hike Alone is a must watch for any fan of the franchise and holds up as an effective found-footage style horror thriller. Clocking in at just shy of 54 minutes, it does count as “feature-length” as it exceeds the 40 minute threshold. Just to provide a bit of background, I am what most people would consider a hardcore fan of the Friday the 13th franchise. Even though I was born 4 years after the first film released, I grew up watching the movies and I always loved the Jason character, but even as a kid I never considered him a threat. My mindset was always as long as I stay away from Camp Crystal Lake Jason will leave me alone. I own many of the films individually on Blu-ray, as well as the full Blu-ray set and full DVD set, a full size wearable mask that was custom made, as well as a few other Jason masks I collected over the years. Bottom line, this franchise is in my blood. Never Hike Alone is a perfect example of what longtime fans of this amazing franchise deserve, an authentic look at present day Camp Crystal Lake providing a heavy dose of nostalgia (I get goosebumps just thinking about it). I really liked the portrayal of Jason, from the thud sound made by each step he took, to his slow moving yet dangerous ability to strike with extreme strength. As with the franchise from the start, Jason is a resourceful, relentless, and extremely patient killer, and those characteristics are fully intact here. Jason does his trademark head turn that is usually on display when something baffles him, and they also made sure to implement the simple fact that Jason is basically immortal and hitting him just pisses him off even more (just ask the dude from the rooftop in Jason Takes Manhattan who no longer has a head).
The writing is spot on as well with smooth pacing, and the lead character was the perfect choice. Putting a skilled survivalist up against Jason at least feels like a slightly better match compared to a bunch of horny half-baked counselors (although it is fun watching him carve them up). The fact that the director, Vincent DiSanti, also played Jason is pretty cool. He is a talented director and had some great shots and transitions in between scenes, right up to the final scene which closed things out nicely. I also have to commend the make-up/FX team, consisting of Kelsey Berk, because Jason looked great and the wounds were very realistic. Jason looked like a guy who lives in the woods worshipping the head of his deceased mother, and hasn’t showered in about 30 years, and yeah, that fits the bill. So many scenes felt like a genuine tribute to the franchise, like the various shots of Jason observing his surroundings, or when the camera is over Jason’s shoulder seeing things from his perspective. I just can’t say enough about how well shot this film is and it really felt like fans of the franchise poured their hearts and souls into this project. The score and sound effects were amazing and really added a TON of value to the film. Any successful horror movie relies on a quality soundtrack and score in order to emphasize the more intense moments and they did a great job with that. Considering the resources they were afforded and the fact that the project was backed by a Kickstarter campaign, I really can’t think of many criticisms. This is purely based on how I feel a victim would react while being hunted by Jason and fighting for survival. It certainly felt more realistic than the way the characters reacted in the recently released horror film The Strangers: Prey at Night, which had a 5 million dollar budget.
The cast for Never Hike Alone is small but very talented. Drew Leighty, who takes on the lead role, has only been acting since 2016 and has a few small credits on his IMDb filmography, but I really enjoyed his performance. The film is shot in a documentary style, partially using his GoPro camera while also utilizing a few other cameras, and his demeanor feels authentic to what you would expect from someone who films hiking adventures for their social media followers. I think he did a fantastic job especially considering his level of experience. Vincent DiSanti, a multi-talented director and actor, took on the crucial role of killer Jason Voorhees and I was very pleased with his performance. Last but certainly not least, fans are treated with an EPIC cameo appearance by Tommy Jarvis, played by Thom Mathews, the actual Tommy Jarvis from Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives (1986), who also voiced the character in Friday the 13th The Game. Granted it has been a long time since fans saw Mathews play Jarvis on screen and he has certainly aged, but that voice is unmistakable. He brings with him a few of his trademark lines as well and man it was cool to see him again. It put a big smile on this fan's face- that’s for sure.
Never Hike Alone is a blast to experience, and as a huge fan of Friday the 13th it further reinforced what I already knew - which is the simple fact that we should have a new movie by now! Unfortunately, the reason we don’t comes down to studio politics and issues with rights, etc., which honestly pisses me off. These people need to get their acts together and do right by a fan base that has been supporting this franchise for 35 years at this point! I will gladly open my wallet and I know many others will as well. It is clear from the jump that a ton of time and effort was put into this film, and it all comes together extremely well all things considered. I mean let’s face it, Friday the 13th fans have been begging for another movie for nearly a decade and these guys were able to give us something that will at the very least ease our appetite for a bit longer. The sad reality is it will probably be awhile before we get the elusive 13th film in the franchise. Personally, I have been feeding my cravings with another project that started as a Kickstarter campaign, Friday the 13th: The Game, and I am having an absolute blast with it. I highly recommend giving it a try if you haven’t already. Never Hike Alone is made for Friday the 13th fans by Friday the 13th fans, and for that reason, it is an absolute must-see. It also leaves the door open for a sequel (here’s to hoping). Highly recommended.
Are you a huge Friday the 13th fan?! Do you play the game? Let us know in the comments section. Also for hardcore fans interested in the Blu-ray or DVD version of the film, a limited quantity will be for sale through Indiegogo so you will need to act fast! (Blu-ray is region-free but the DVD is strictly region 1 for those of you outside of the United States.)
Would you like to check out Never Hike Alone for yourself?! Well you're in luck! We have the full-length film below courtesy of Womp Stomp Films. Enjoy!!