Never Hike Alone (2017)

I dare say that not only is “Never Hike Alone” one of the best fan films ever made, but it’s easily the best “Friday the 13th” fan film ever made. A mixture of “127 Hours” and “Friday the 13th,” director and writer Vincente DiSanti provides a riveting small scale sequel to “Friday the 13th” where he offers up a brand new twist to the conventional tale featuring Jason Voorhees. It’s a shame we might never get an actual sequel to the series because with a small bit of polish, and twenty extra minutes of extrapolation on our main character, “Never Hike Alone” could pass in theaters as the sequel to the series that we’ve always wanted. I’d say it surely is the sequel that I’ve always wanted, as it focuses less on cannon fodder and T&A and spends a lot more time on build up and suspense.

Jason isn’t a lumbering maniac anymore, but is rather an urban legend that comes to life before our eyes, spending a good period obscured in the distance and then comes charging in to us head first. I spent a majority of the film rooting for our protagonist and actually hoping Jason would lose the battle of wills against an adventure seeking hiker. Drew Leighty plays hiker Kyle McLeod, an adventurous hiker and explorer who ventures out in to the wilderness intent on filming his web show and touting some sponsored survival products. All seems to be going well until he decides to venture out deeper in to the woods in cut in through a path that dons a sign insisting “No Trespassers.” Despite some odd activity overnight involving coyotes, he ventures deep in to the woods and eventually ends up at the throes of a familiar crystal lake.

Abandoned and condemned, much to his shock he winds up at the remnants of a summer camp and starts going exploring. Little does he know that he is being stalked by the mythical hockey masked maniac known as Jason Voorhees. Before long Jason pounces on Kyle, and he is hell bent on surviving and making it back home, as Jason relentlessly stalks him with a seemingly endless array of weapons. What’s so compelling about “Never Hike Alone” is the eventual battle of wills and wits between Jason and character Kyle, who is always very smart and logical in his thinking. Despite being chased by this powerful knife wielding maniac, he never thinks beyond rationality, focusing first on survival and making it back home as fast as he can without drawing the attention of Jason Voorhees. Drew Leighty is given the weight of the film and carries it well with his strong turn as a man who accidentally walks in to pure horror not by sheer stupidity but coincidence.

Even more when presented with the challenge of Jason Voorhees, he fights tooth and nail, and deals him a tough time. DiSanti jumps back and forth between found footage format and live action, and character Kyle has to keep a cool head, playing cat and mouse in Jason’s domain. DiSanti makes great use of over the shoulder shots, as Jason is depicted as a monster completely embedded within the realm of the wilderness near and in Camp Crystal Lake. He plays well off of making Jason feel a part of every bit of landscape, even creating a stellar composition between his face and the full moon. “Never Hike Alone” is a top notch fan film, a great work of fiction, and horror that packs excellent surprises fans of the series will be bowled over with. I hope we see more from director DiSanti very soon, as this is a sequel worthy of a place in the series.