NEVER HIKE ALONE 2 (2023)
Release Date: 10/13/23 [Youtube]
Studio: Womp Stomp Films.
"20 years after the last sighting of Jason Voorhees, Crystal Lake resident and former victim Tommy Jarvis still lives with the haunting notion that Jason will one day return."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
In the six years since Never Hike Alone, a Friday the 13th fan film, premiered on YouTube, the ambitious slasher-flick-that-could has gained positive ground with the devout Jason Voorhees fanbase. A 2020 prequel, Never Hike in the Snow, was a short but beautifully shot placeholder until the proper sequel was released. Now Never Hike Alone 2 has debuted (on a Friday the 13th, of course) and dutifully picked up where the original left off.
For the uninitiated, Never Hike Alone tells the story of lone hiker and YouTuber Kyle (Drew Leighty), who stumbles upon Camp Crystal Lake – and Jason himself – during his trek through the wilderness. The film ends with Kyle severely wounded and rescued by EMT Tommy Jarvis (Thom Matthews), the long-standing canon rival to Mr. Voorhees.
Never Hike Alone 2, written and directed by Vincente DiSanti, feels like a small step down from the original, but it is still a bloody good time for Jason fans. DiSante, who also splits the role of Jason with Bryan Forrest, crafts a fun yarn chock full of appropriate fan service that never feels inappropriate or gratuitous.
The film opens with an exhibition of Tommy’s hallucinations and paranoia. He has permanent Jason-on-the-brain, and this behavior has put him at odds with Sheriff Rick Cologne (Vincent Guastaferro). Tommy’s guilt stems from unintentionally releasing Jason from his grave back in 1986 during the events of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. That film served as the apex of the original Tommy Jarvis storyline, widely regarded as a franchise favorite among the fans. Decades later, the aftershock of those events has left Tommy a shaken but determined survivor, forever waiting for a Jason rematch.
After retrieving Kyle from Jason’s clutches, Tommy’s worst fears are realized and validated. Jason is alive, well, at least upright and swinging, and still thirsty for blood. Jason follows Tommy’s ambulance to the hospital, extending the kill count before eventually circling back to Crystal Lake. It is fascinating that Jason foregoes his territorial nature and elects to pursue his prey outside his area.
There are a few shaky performances from some side characters, which isn’t too bothersome as they’re introduced only to be machete fodder anyway. In Never Hike Alone 2, the principal leads, Tommy, Kyle, and Dr. Hill (Anna Campbell) emote enough humanity, fear, and determination for the tight 73-minute running time.
While Never Hike Alone 2 is a fun entry that stacks against the original canon series with modest equity; the flick doesn’t hold a grip as tightly as its predecessor. This observation doesn’t serve as a slight on this sequel exactly; the first film excelled in its tighter isolated focus. Never Hike Alone 2 has the burden of juggling multiple storylines, but it can lift from the franchise canon to sew the threads tightly.
The cinematography is again top-notch. The small studio that put this together, Womp Stomp Films, squeezed out every drop of beauty in this film. The sweeping drone shots, the well-crafted set pieces, and the creative transition shots are better than they need to be. The make-up and gore will satisfy any slasher movie fan; this film has many creative Jason kills, which I dare not spoil here. The score is effective and feels right at home, evoking the empty ambiance and subtle dread one would expect from the Friday the 13th universe.
Never Hike Alone 2 knows its audience and is a sure-fire hit for hockey-mask-wearing, blade-toting Mr. Voorhees fans. This fan film came out at the right time to be streamed for Halloween and sets the bar for quality if the Canon franchise ever returns.