Never Hike Alone 2
Updated: Oct 14
Yesterday, Friday the 13th was a major success. I made it through work with a clean show and escaped without being hassled, always a win in my book. Then before bed, I played the Friday the 13th game for the first time in maybe two years with THE Anderson and Larry. I'm not one to troll while playing video games, but running over counselors will never stop being hilarious. Once that was over, I finally got to check out...
Never Hike Alone 2 (2023)
If you remember, I lost my mind over the first Never Hike Alone. I LOVED it! It got the rare 10 Dr. Chainsaws, which is really impressive for a fan film. I didn't even give it more slack like I usually do for fan films, it was legitimately a fantastic Jason movie. Everything about it was great. I mean, the filmmakers were shooting the movie when locals showed them an abandoned campground and the setting was perfect! Things just fell into place for these people to make movie magic. I loved the story too. Friday the 13th doesn't need to reinvent the wheel, it was made to be a copycat of Halloween, but this movie did something different. It plopped a survivalist into Jason's territory and their cat-and-mouse games were so damn good. When my only complaint about the movie was Jason's heavy footsteps, you know it's great. Plus, at just about an hour long, it was the perfect length for this type of movie. Finally, my smile couldn't have been bigger at the Thom Matthews as Tommy Jarvis cameo. I think I giggled when he called Jason "Maggot Head."
I didn't care so much for the follow-up, Never Hike in the Snow. It was cool seeing some old faces of the franchise, but I was shocked that it was only 10 minutes. It seems like it just started to pick up and then it just ended. It had a pretty gruesome kill and I've always been intrigued by a Friday film set during winter, but it didn't land like the first one did. The filmmakers understood the backlash and scrapped their plans for more mini-episodes and decided instead to make one, longer story. Before you start, know this; I am kinder in my reviews of fan films because they don't have the backing of a major studio, it's just people going out and shooting what they want without the opportunity to make a profit. BUT! Because Never Hike Alone showed what this group of people is capable of, I will not be grading this movie on a curve.
The movie starts by following Tommy Jarvis. We get to find out what he was up to during the events of Never Hike Alone when Kyle McLeod accidentally found himself in Jason's territory. I love that they convinced Thom Matthews to come back as Jarvis. Looking at his life, the dude had it rough. First, as a child, he witnesses Jason butcher members of his family and then brutally kills the murderer. He spends the next years of his life in an institution. When he finally starts getting better and is moved to a halfway house, a dude dressed as Jason kills a whole bunch of people. Tommy is then responsible for Jason coming back to life and killing even more people! Tommy puts him down again only for Jason to come back and start killing again.
I bring this up to illustrate how rough Tommy's life has been. He must have some serious PTSD and survivor's guilt over the whole thing. The easy route would be to make Tommy a recluse basketcase like Laurie Strode from Halloween (2018.) I liked how they didn't do that and instead made Tommy an EMT. After everything he's been through, he's chosen an occupation where he helps people, like a true hero! I also enjoy how, while Part VI is the most important movie to understand the Hike movies, it's not rewriting canon, those other movies happened. The only one that can't exist in this universe is Jason X. In that one, Jason gets frozen in 2008 and doesn't get defrosted until 2455.
Eventually, we get to the part where Tommy meets up with Kyle and the big man himself. Only this time, it's not from Kyle's perspective, so we get to see Jason kill the others and we see Tommy's little skirmish with Jason as opposed to just hearing it. Tommy manages to take advantage of a distracted Jason, calls him "Maggot Head" and then drives away as Jason follows behind. From there we have Tommy trying to convince Kyle that this isn't over and that he needs to come back to the camp with Tommy to finish this. He does that by pointing out that Jason is on his way and he's pissed.
As you know, I watched The Fall of Camp Blood yesterday, another Jason fan film, and seeing that one first, you appreciate how good this movie is. It's just so well made and polished it looks like something you'd see on the silver screen. The editing and shots are purposeful, the dialogue is believable and the acting is so much better. Watching them within hours of each other makes you appreciate the Never Hike Alone series even more because when looking at the quality of the two, it's night and day.
One of the fun things about these movies is the callbacks to the past. We've already talked about Tommy, but this one also brings back Deputy, well he's Sheriff now, Rick Cologne. You may remember him from Part VI. He was the deputy who was really into the laser pointer attachment on his gun. Now, 40-something years later and he's in charge of the department, he liked the red dots so much that he made it standard issue in the department. There's a scene where Tommy and friends are leaving an elevator and are greeted with multiple guns drawn, all of them with a laser pointer on them. I chuckled. He even managed two variations of his "Ya bang" phrase before getting his moment. People may want to point out that he acts incredibly stupid, but you have to remember, he survives Part VI because he gets tricked and locked in a jail cell while the sheriffs and his deputies are getting stomped by Jason. It makes sense he wouldn't know what he was up against, and why he may not believe our masked friend is behind everything.
What's nice about these movies is that Jason looks and feels like Jason. I'm not the biggest fan of his mask in this (it's too big,) but everything else is pretty spot on. I also liked how he was able to show emotion, you could tell with the way he was handling these people that he was pissed. Not only did somebody have the audacity to survive the encounter but then his old nemesis just happened to get in between Jason and a kill. He doesn't take much time stalking, he's just marching towards the people he wants dead and isn't afraid to come out in the open to do it.
While it was cool to see, I preferred the approach to the first one. I talked about it earlier, but I liked the very small story they told in the first with Kyle and Jason. It was just one man's struggle in an area he wasn't familiar with against a monster that did not want him there. This one feels a little more status quo than the original did. That's not a bad thing, it's still an entertaining movie and better than multiple movies in the actual series, I just really liked the fresh approach of the first one.
Still, it's always a pleasure to see more of Jason. I alluded to it earlier, but I love Thom Matthews as Tommy. My family and I met him at Motor City Nightmares a few years back and he was incredibly friendly. He talked to us a bit about how he got involved with Never Hike Alone and then, unprompted, called CJ Graham (Jason from Part VI) "Maggot Head" for Lincoln. I think my favorite part was near the end during the final fight. Tommy is walking through the camp and stumbles upon the archery range. When he turns around he sees Jason readying a bow and arrow and all he can do is watch and let out a defeated, "Oh shit..."
It makes me laugh because if you're Tommy and you turn around to see this unstoppable killing machine loading up a bow and arrow while you're dead to rights what can you do? I think "Oh shit," may be the only response to that situation.
Speaking of the end, that's where I have my only complaint. Their plan to get rid of Jason once and for all is pretty flimsy. Tommy surmises that they have to destroy Pamela's head to get rid of Jason. It's like they think Jason follows the ghost rules from "Supernatural." What's weird is that no one questions it, they all take it at face value, and the fake head gets treated like a football. It's a little out there. Plus, while he ends up being wrong, in the end, he was right, the head was key, which is a little silly, but it's not a deal breaker when you consider some of the sillier aspects of the franchise.
To sum it up, it's pretty great. It looks fantastic, Thom Matthews is awesome, it's well-acted, the story is good and it was fun seeing the callbacks to the previous movies. It's not as wonderful as Never Hike Alone, but that's asking a lot, NHA was incredible. Still, I recommend this movie. There may be some who enjoy this one better because it feels more like a Friday the 13th movie with a bigger focus on Jason and body count.