Oh, the weather is brutally cold and bleak this time of year, friends and neighbors, best we settle in to watch some nice summertime vistas. What do we have here, oh yes a nature show. Looks like this one is about one of those guys who goes out to see if he can survive in the wild. Perfect! Yes, this is a wonderful pick entitled “Never Hike Alone.” Here we will witness our host, Kyle MacLeod trek into the woods on what will surely be his own nature trail to hell. I wonder, do you think his body camera shoots in 3D?
This film exhibits the type of work that can only be achieved with a true love of the genre. “Never Hike Alone” takes the concept of a fan film and expands it to fantastic depths. A heartfelt stab at the Friday the 13th franchise and ultimately the slasher genre itself, this film takes what could have been a simple series of references and nods and expands them into a greater self-contained story. While the franchise has previously ventured to New York City and even outer space, the opening scenes give a worldview to this one that makes it feel like an open-world game with Crystal Lake as merely a piece within. The setting closes in as appropriate as we delve deeper and deeper, inching us closer to that classic feeling of claustrophobia that only the Voorhees family could bring.
We join our hero, MacLeod, as he explains his purpose. To hike in this far secluded nature preserve, donated to the state long ago and witness something most people never get to see. He surely will get what he asks for. In fact, for the first half of the film, you might just find yourself begging for his slow and agonizing death at the hands of the man of the hour, Jason. Jason is introduced early on, but for reasons only known to the man in the mask himself, he chooses not to outright attack our hero. So, for now, he chooses to stalk his victim. Perhaps he has yet to see Kyle do anything worthy of dying… until he picks up that Playboy and decides to camp out in the old camp – all the while telling his camera viewers about the legend surrounding old Camp Blood. Not the same as sex and pot smoking teens needing a hard reprimand, but that hasn’t exactly stopped Jason before and as you will see by the end of the film when his old… well, I won’t say and I ask you as well to please not reveal the secret ending to your friends. They won’t believe their eyes, don’t spoil the big surprise… it is worth it.
What we have here is a fantastic fan film that can fit directly into the continuity of the franchise without skipping a slice or dice. The cabins of Camp Crystal Lake are recreated in such as way as to be faithfully reminiscent of the original films, if not exactly in detail. This ambiguity actually works in favor of the piece as we are shown multiple nods and clear references to the original films, even though in those stories they may have taken place at different locations altogether. Camp Blood never looked as great as we are blown out of the water with framing and tracking cues that nod to the source material while also adding a found footage aspect to the film that is neither contrived nor abused. It fits in perfectly.
Speaking of nods and recreated sets, the absolute piece de resistance is the bunk bed scene. Faithfully executed, we walk in on the very room where Jack Marand, better known to the world as Kevin Bacon, received his arrowhead award from Pamela Voorhees in the very first film. This crusty cretin actually clapped at that one. So very well done.
As for ole Jason, he has not lost his edge. But MacLeod is no slouch himself. I guess being alone vs. the great and terrifying Jason will give you the adrenaline that one needs to hold their own, but this guy can take a licking and keep on crawling… Jason, on the other hand, is clearly not the undead monster thing he became later in the series. While he does have decidedly grey skin and his face is quite distorted, this is the Jason of the original five chapters. He is a little faster but no speedy demon. This Jason is our fiend from the pre-“Jason Lives” era, and that is not a good thing… it is a great thing.
Altogether this film fits perfectly as an epilogue to the events of the first five films. In fact, this could easily serve in an alternate universe wherein Tommy Jarvis doesn’t make the mistake of jabbing a lightning rod into Jason’s corpse to make him the zombie-like creature of the later movies. But then how would Jason have come back for this film? And would he remember Tommy at all? Sorry, but I am not going to go around asking Jason anything of the sort, if you or Tommy Jarvis want to know the answer to that you can ask him yourselves.
Ultimately this is a must-see for any fan of the Friday the 13th franchise, any fan of good suspenseful horror and anyone who knows what is good for them! So remember, Never Hike Alone – and if you do never near old abandoned summer camps with a history of murderous mayhem and vengeful killings. Okay, it can happen, so if it does and you find yourself running from Jason, keep in mind that you will tire before he does. Never, ever, stop to rest near the water. Unless you are in one of those foggy dream sequences… those are dream sequences… right?
Stay tuned for more from the World of Death, you never know what is just outside your window…
– Eric Breitenbach
World of Death is the web series that fans of independent horror have been waiting for. Featuring short horror films from all over the globe created by the largest variety of talent that a collection has ever been able to boast, WOD provides plenty of blood, guts, screams and laughs for all fans of the macabre. And with episodes averaging around eight minutes in length, WOD is the perfect entertainment for a fan base constantly on the go. Watch it anywhere, at any time, for FREE! New episodes premiere every Monday and Thursday at 10am CST.