Womp Stomp Films’ Never Hike Alone redefined what a fan film can be. After racking up nearly 2 million views on YouTube, premiering at one of the most beloved film festivals in the genre, as well as receiving its very own Blu-ray release, a sequel (or prequel in this case) to the popular Friday the 13th fan film was a no-brainer. But instead of sticking with what got him to the dance, writer/director Vincente DiSanti set his sights higher with his much anticipated follow-up. The cast is larger, the locations are more abundant, and the effects are bloodier than ever—but is Never Hike in the Snow a worthy successor to the ambitious little fan film that captured the imaginations of horror fans everywhere? Mostly, yeah.
I’ll admit that a large part of what attracted me to Never Hike Alone was its ability to take something so far removed from the Friday the 13th franchise (vlogging) and use it to create scenarios that were unique and exciting. There’s no such “hook” here. And while that was a bit disappointing at first, Never Hike in the Snow finds its own success through more traditional means. You’ve got Thom Mathews reprising his role as Tommy Jarvis, a clueless deputy along with his shitty sheriff (reprised by original F13 VI actor Vincent Guastaferro), a teenager desperately attempting to avoid death, and the man himself: Jason Voorhees. DiSanti is blurring the lines between fan film and official canon in a way that is sort of brilliant, and there’s much more here for die hard F13 fans. But that familiarity comes with a few trade-offs.
With the vlogging angle almost completely removed, Never Hike in the Snow is far more predictable. We know who these people are and how they behave, so there’s very little in terms of surprise. That said, DiSanti handles these existing characters with respect, and it’s pretty cool to see Tommy Jarvis and Rick Cologne on screen together once again—even if line deliveries aren’t always the strongest. It’s a fan film, after all, so I’m not sure it’s fair to hold it to any higher sort of standard. But when you look and sound as good as Never Hike in the Snow does, that’s easier said than done.
I’m not sure what the film’s budget was, but it looks expensive. Costumes are great, sound design and musical composition are a dream, and the cinematography is gorgeous and far more dynamic than what appeared in Never Hike Alone (which is also gorgeous). While there is far less handheld footage to be found here, the team still finds creative ways to work it in from time to time and, truth be told, these are largely my favorite moments in Never Hike in the Snow. Seeing Jason Voorhees through a new lens never gets old; I just wish there was a bit more of that here. Regardless, there’s no denying that the Womp Stomp team is extremely talented.
While the owners of the actual Friday the 13th franchise continue struggling to get their shit together, DiSanti and team continue to make movies. Never Hike in the Snow serves as a prequel to Never Hike Alone, and I’m fully expecting to see a sequel in the next year or two. This latest entry firmly sets the stage for a full-blown fan film franchise, and I can’t wait to see more.