The idea of film films and fiction and expanded universes has never personally appealed to me. Fanboy obsession over every detail and minutiae of their objects of affection can border on obnoxious. Generally, I prefer to stick with original source material. However, the word of mouth surrounding Vincente DiSanti’s Friday the 13th fan film was too positive to ignore. And a quick look at the trailers on YouTube had me sold on the concept. With a Friday the 13th just a week away a quick review of Never Hike Alone seemed like a good appetizer ahead of some of the things I have planned for the blog next week.
With each failed attempt to resurrect the franchise since the 2009 reboot, fan conversations inevitably swirl around what direction a new film should adopt. At one point, rumours suggested that the next Friday the 13th might adopt a found-footage approach. Fortunately, this proposed iteration was abandoned before it got off the ground.
DiSanti ultimately took the best direction, which also happened to be the simplest. His Never Hike Alone is a stripped down, back-to-basics take on Friday the 13th. Kyle, a hiker and vlogger, takes a backpack trip through the wilderness and stumbles upon the abandoned Camp Crystal Lake. Shortly thereafter, Kyle discovers that the myth of Jason Voorhees is all too true. Now Kyle must fight to survive and escape the wilderness while pursued by a relentless Jason
A Back to Basics Friday Film
Never Hike Alone remembers everything that made Friday the 13th such a fun franchise, dumping all the excess baggage it collected with each subsequent sequel. At a brisk 54 minutes, DiSanti focuses on simple tension and suspense. For the first third of the short film, DiSanti shows a restraint not found in many of the Friday films. In fact, it’s kind of interesting to watch a Friday film that elects to build suspense slowly using extended periods of silence. It’s such a simple approach to mounting tension, but so effective, and also serves to really distinguish this short film from the other franchise sequels.
While Never Hike Alone strips away a lot of the later sequels’ excesses, it also takes a radically different approach to its story. DiSanti abandons the “then there were none” approach to focus on a single character being stalked by Jason. Some Friday fans may be disappointed by this variation. Ultimately, it means that the creative, giallo-inspired death scenes are absent in the short film. This narrative decision might be more reflective of budgetary restraints, but I personally felt it worked quite well, creating a refreshingly different and compelling story.
Nice Call Backs to the Original Friday the 13th
Several things help make DiSanti’s decision to focus on a single character work. As I described above, Never Hike Alone is suspenseful and nicely builds some tension and scares into its short runtime. Drew Leighty, as Kyle, does a great job with his role, coming across as believable and sympathetic. Like much of Never Hike Alone, it feels kind of refreshing to have a character who feels real rather than an obnoxious stereotype. DiSanti also sprinkles a few ‘shout outs’ to the original Friday the 13th, which is fun for diehard fans. The idea to have Kyle discover old crime scene flags was a simple yet brilliant narrative tool – it calls back to the original film while not relying on clunky, expository dialogue.
A Worthwhile Addition to the Friday Universe
I wasn’t just pleasantly surprised watching Never Hike Alone; I outright enjoyed this fan-made short film. If studio executives are still scratching their heads over how to continue making Friday the 13th films, I would strongly encourage them to give Vincente DiSanti the ball and let him run with it. It would be really interesting to see what this filmmaker could do with decent budget and longer runtime. In the meantime, if you’re a Friday the 13th fan, get over to YouTube and watch DiSanti’s short film.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: A-