Put on your hiking boots, kids, because we're heading off the beaten path for today's movie.
I know what you're thinking. "Adam, is that Jason Voorhees? But you already reviewed a Friday the 13th movie this year!" That's right, I did, and I actually had a completely different movie picked out for today. It's my son Logan's 15th birthday today, however, and as I sat down in front of the TV, he asked if he could make a suggestion. Well how can I say no to the kid on his birthday? At first, I rolled my eyes when he told me about this hour-long Friday the 13th fan film, but it occurred to me that I've never reviewed any kind of fan film for 31 Days of Halloween before, so this could be fun. What the hell?
Now when I said "off the beaten path," I meant it both figuratively and literally. Not only is this not outside my usual wheelhouse, but we also wander into Camp Crystal Lake's untamed past in 2017's Never Hike Alone.
As our story opens, we join outdoors vlogger Kyle McLeod as he sets out on his latest hiking adventure. Using a GoPro camera, Kyle documents his trek through the wilderness. On his first night, Kyle is frightened by a pack of coyotes hunting nearby, cutting one of his logs short. On the second day, he stumbles across a cordoned off section of woods, but believing it to be part of the preserve, he crosses the fence and ventures toward the lake. As he prepares to set up camp for the night, he uncovers a sign for Camp Crystal Lake.
Kyle abandons his campsite and wanders into the abandoned, decaying ruins of Camp Crystal Lake. As he explores the dilapidated buildings, he finds gory reminders of the terrible things that happened. As he records he recounts the tales his older brother told him about a drowned boy named Jason and his mother Pamela's bloody killing spree against the camp counselors she blamed for the boy's death. When he stumbles across Jason's lair and the mummified head of Pamela Voorhees, Kyle realizes the stories were all true. Now he must fight for his life against the undead Jason Voorhees himself if he ever hopes to escape Camp Crystal Lake.
Since this is a fan film, let's talk about the production value itself. By the opening credits, you'd have no idea this is a Friday the 13th film. The mix of third-person and Go-Pro footage works well together. I'm glad that the filmmakers didn't go for a full-on shaky cam approach... Hmmm... Maybe I should review Cloverfield this year. Anyway! Jason looks great for the most part. His hands look like rubber gloves, but his overall appearance and mask are on point. There are some missing features on the mask, but we'll let that slide. As is tradition, we do get a brief look at Jason unmasked, and I like the look they went with. Definitely undead without being too over the top.
The film's climax brings back fan favorite Tommy Jarvis, with Thom Matthews reprising the role for the first time since Friday the 13th Part 6 - Jason Lives!, which I reviewed previously this year. While I would still like to see Corey Feldman reprise the role he started someday, it did warm my heart to see Thom Matthews return. It appears he's also involved with another fan film produced by the same team. Hopefully he gets a larger role this time.
With the Friday the 13th franchise caught up in litigation hell, it may be a long time before we see any kind of official release, so fan efforts like these are a welcome appetizer. I have mixed feelings about how the ending plays out, and even a few gripes about Tommy's portrayal, but overall I find the movie to be a solid effort. You can view Never Hike Alone in its entirety for free on YouTube. It's definitely a must-see for any die-hard Jason fan.