[Review] 'Never Hike in the Snow' Proves Director Vincente DiSanti is the Hero the 'Friday' Franchise Deserves
He did it. The crazy son of a bitch finally did it…
…If you’re a Friday the 13th fan like me, there’s one thing we’ve been waiting an eternity to see on screen. The franchise has gone from the eerie woods of Camp Crystal Lake, to a brief, toxic spa day in New York, and even the dark void of space. But one place the Friday the 13th franchise has never brought us despite its simplicity? The snow.
I’m thrilled to say that director Vincente DiSanti has finally done what studios seem to have deemed the impossible, and brought Jason’s murderous rage to a winter setting with Never Hike in the Snow. And the film demonstrates every reason why Jason should’ve been slashing through the snow sooner.
A prequel set three months prior to DiSanti’s breakout hit fan film, Never Hike Alone, Snow follows a curious teen named Mark (Courtian Gordon) who gets a little too curious about the area surrounding Camp Crystal Lake. Following his disappearance (and pretty obvious murder), Sheriff Cologne (Vincent Guastaferro) decides to cover up the murder with the help of Deputy Mabry (Bryan Forrest), leaving Mark’s mother in tear-soaked despair. Meanwhile, town resident and Friday favorite Tommy Jarvis (once again played by Thom Mathews) knows something stinks about Sherrif Cologne’s investigation and sets out to prove Jason is still alive.
Right from the opening shot, Disanti proves two things: He knows how important the wintery setting is, and his ambitious passion to make this a Friday film to remember knows no bounds.
Never Hike in the Snow opens on an impressive aerial shot soaring over the forest and through the impossibly white veil of a winter storm. Before we even meet Jason or his inevitable victim(s), DiSanti sets a chilling tone of isolationistic loneliness accompanied by an eerie score that makes the bones cold. And then Mark comes running at us through the trees, followed by a lumbering Jason (played by DiSanti), with a perfectly greyish, frostbitten skin.
From there, Never Hike in The Snow works to further dumbfound audiences to why Jason has never put on his snow boots before. Never Hike in the Snow employs a cold, dark atmosphere rarely seen in the franchise, elevated by howling winds and the soft crunch of blood-drenched snow. Camp Crystal Lake has never felt as lonely as it does in Never Hike in the Snow, and that’s thanks to the desolate and empty feeling which the winter setting provides. Not to mention, there is no better element for blood than snow, which stains the winter wonderland red and acts as a consistent reminder that even in a beautiful place like Crystal Lake, terror lurks. Or hulks. Whatever.
Running at just thirty minutes and with few bodies to spare, Jason isn’t allowed to go on full rampage mode in Never Hike in the Snow, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of blood spilled. Every kill in the film is done with the Friday fans in mind, following a motto of “go bloody or go home”. A motto which DiSanti upholds to perfection, with jaw-splitting effects that are sure to get a cheer or a gasp or both out of audiences. I only wish that we’d gotten to see Jason toy around with items more traditional to the winter season such as ice picks or shovels, but he manages to get his hands on a bow and arrow, which I can live with while others die trying.
It’s not what Never Hike in the Snow does to appeal to Friday fans that makes it most interesting, but what it doesn’t do. Like Never Hike Alone, Never Hike in the Snow removes the doped up, promiscuous teens and flavorful camp for a more somber, emotional journey that works to expand Jason Voorhees beyond his slasher roots.
Never Hike in the Snow is meant to be fun, but it isn’t funny. Just ask Mark’s mother, Diana—assisted with a heartfelt performance from Anna Campbell—who is mourning the likely death of her only son, left alone by a man who abandoned the two of them years ago…an interesting parallel to Jason Voorhees.
Jason himself is also attacked from a different angle than we usually see. To a degree, Jason’s always been a somewhat sympathetic character—at least more so than Freddy or Micahel—because we’ve always understood that Jason only became a monster because of public perception and witnessing his own mother’s death. Never Hike in the Snow isn’t out to make Jason the hero by any means, but it does attempt to melt the ice around our hearts and get us to feel for the quiet killer, with moments that express his true loneliness. We get to see what Jason is like without dumb teens around, opening a window into why he loved his mother so much, and how much he hates his own appearance. It’s impossible to leave Never Hike in the Snow without feeling at least a little bit bad for ole Jason.
Never Hike in the Snow does exactly what fan films are supposed to. By putting the focus on a grieving mother and Jason himself, it does what the studios never will, which is contemplate on the life after death, in this case, Diana, and the soul of Jason himself. The official Friday films are for those wanting the usual affair of blood, tits and ass. Never Hike in the Snow uncovers something just a touch deeper than that.
My only issue? There is just not enough Thom Mathews. With such a short run time and acting as a prequel for Never Hike Alone, Mathews is left to wander in and out of a couple scenes as the franchise’s Dr. Loomis. Mathews stepped into that role with Jason Never Lives, where he spends half the film ranting about Jason, and that’s all we really see of him here. That being said, Mathews is still the beating heart of this franchise. And if Mathews is the heart, DiSanti is the hero this franchise needs to keep that heart pumping.
As far as I understand it, DiSanti has other Friday films planned, which would explain the incomplete feeling of Never Hike in the Snow’s story, which ends just as it seems to get going. For the most part, Never Hike in the Snow delivers on what it promises, with plenty of Jason, great gore and blood-drenched snow.
With Never Hike in the Snow, DiSanti has proven he has the passion, determination and creativity for this franchise. Jason’s machete is in DiSanti’s hands for now, and we should be so lucky.
The long list of special thanks to backers at the end of the film proves that the support for DiSanti and Womp Stomp Films is tremendous, as it should be.
Never Hike in the Snow premieres on Womp Stomp Films Youtube Channel at 9pm ET/6pm PT tonight, October 13th.
By Matt Konopka