Automatically for film critics and even horror fans, the term “fan film” is almost an immediate out. You just expect the worst because a bunch of people got together with exceptionally poor equipment and threw together a 20 minute Friday the 13th. Except Vincente DiSanti (director and Jason Voorhees) did just that with Never Hike Alone and the results were something Andy and I could agree was the best try we can honestly say we’ve seen.

I’ve watched (or attempted) handfuls and they are largely unbearable. I’d mention some by name if I could remember them but they aren’t worth searching for reference. Every issue is there and none of the “so bad it’s good” quality: acting that isn’t even entertaining, bad shots, entirely too predictable, shot for shot copying. Never Hike Alone is none of those things.

Andy obviously had the benefit of being in Telluride when it screened for Telluride Horror Show but sadly had to experience it just like us normal people,free on YouTube, because he chose a different movie at that same time.

Never Hike Alone was a Kickstarter campaign to finish up the production. What came of it was a 50 minute journey into the forest surrounding Camp Crystal Lake. It was worth the $50,000+ needed because none of the money seemed to have been wasted. Kyle McLeod is a backcountry vlogger who sets out on hikes into remote forest areas, showing his followers his adventures. Kyle’s latest adventure -unknowingly- is to the same forest where a forgotten Camp Crystal Lake is buried. The off the grid camp still has one resident.

What is humorous is that the rumored 13th Friday the 13th was going to be a found footage movie. Everyone should automatically have reservations about that. DiSanti put THAT in his movie to maximum effect, integrating it well into the action. The locations and cinematography was used effectively. Extra points because this is a fan film. This is not how horror fan films are traditionally shot. We got to explore the ruins of the camp which was also really cool.

Kyle McLeod (Andrew Leighty) is the likeable, nimble, backcountry hiking expert, which isn’t Jason’s normal prey.

Andy and I had a back and forth on this and came to some of the same conclusions. Jason looked good, though we deviated on the look of the hockey mask. The structure and flow of the story were very solid. Like, so smooth. Great callbacks, Andy and I both felt they didn’t become a distraction.

The focus on just two actors for basically the entire thing was perfect. No need for a bloated cast. Kyle (Andrew Leighty) was well played, believable, and likeable. Benefactor of small cast, but Kyle felt real and was believable as someone put up against Jason Voorhees. Jason also walks with the sound of a robot, the one detractor we could really come up with. Otherwise Jason is as brutish as he usually can be, the action flow once Kyle unfortunately meets Jason works well as it shifts into survivor mode.

The combination of all those positives and a satisfying ending really makes Never Hike Alone the truest Friday the 13th fan film and a benchmark for what a horror fan film can be.

Did I mention it was FREE on YouTube?

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