The Fans Do a Better Job Than the Creators
Friday the 13th Fan Films
I do not normally pay much attention to fan films. This is mostly because I'm a continuity snob -- I want whatever I'm reading, watching, playing, etc. to actually have some bearing on the over all series canon. If a work doesn't actually influence events in the main series, I don't bother with it. This is why, despite a couple of "seasons" of Arrow and The Flash tie-in comics, I never read any of the ArrowverseWhen it was announced that the CW was creating a show based on the Green Arrow, people laughed. The CW? Really? Was it going to be teen-oriented like everything else on the network and be called "Arrow High"? And yet that one show, Arrow has spawned three spin-offs, various related shows and given DC a successful shared universe, the Arrowverse on TV and streaming. comics, why I stopped reading any of the Star TrekOriginally conceived as "Wagon Train in Space", Star Trek was released during the height of the Hollywood Western film and TV boom. While the concept CBS originally asked for had a western vibe, it was the smart, intellectual stories set in a future utopia of science and exploration that proved vital to the series' long impact on popular culture. novels, and why I wasn't sad when Disney wiped away the old Star WarsThe modern blockbuster: it's a concept so commonplace now we don't even think about the fact that before the end of the 1970s, this kind of movie -- huge spectacles, big action, massive budgets -- wasn't really made. That all changed, though, with Star Wars, a series of films that were big on spectacle (and even bigger on profits). A hero's journey set against a sci-fi backdrop, nothing like this series had ever really been done before, and then Hollywood was never the same. because it gave me an excuse to ignore that old snarl of continuity.
When it comes to the Friday the 13thOne of the most famous Slasher film franchises, the Friday the 13th series saw multiple twists and turn before finally settling on the formula everyone knows and loves: Jason Voorhees killing campers 'round Camp Crystal Lake. series, though, things are a little different. For one that's because the film series has never really card that much about continuity. Sure, some characters, like Tommy Jarvis, have appeared in multiple films, but even then the series has been willing to soft-boot out previous titles, ignore events from previous films, and general pretend that the only continuity that matters was what was on screen in the movie you were watching at that time. The series, quite literally, didn't care about it's own canon.
Then there's the fact that the rights to the series are tied up in a court battle that might never end. It seems that while screenwriter Victor Miller owns the rights to the first Friday the 13th, director Sean Cunningham claims the rights to the character of adult Jason (who wasn't in the first film). Thus they each want to take control of the series moving forward and neither of them can due to court battles, injunctions, and general stupidity. It's left the series without any sort of official continuation since 2009's Friday the 13th reboot.
That's where the fans come in. While the official rights have been bogged down for years, fans have been making their own short-form (and even, in some cases, long-form) Friday the 13th films, a number of which have their charms. We're going to look at a trilogy of these films today, but you can expect us to revisits this canon of fan works over time. If the original series can't continue, we may as well celebrate the fans that are keeping the dream alive.
Friday the 13th: The Storm
An issue people will often mention about fan-works is that they don't always have the highest quality, and that's true of this film. Friday the 13th: The Storm is a very low-budget short film obvious put together on the fly by a few people who were just interested in making their own Jason creature feature. It's not a great movie by any stretch, but then neither were most of the original films in the series, so it's not as if the bar was set all that high to begin with.
In the film outgoing Sarah (Crystal Swarovski) and shy Kerry (Marie Joelyn) are having a day on the beach, making out and falling in love. Sarah goes for a dip in the ocean (a skinny dip), and when she emerges from the water Kerry is gone. She looks around for a bit, then goes home, thinking Kerry has ditched her. But now, Kerry is the first victim of Jason's newest rampage, and once Jason goes home, Sarah, her neighbors, and her whole family are in for a dark and stormy night.
The Storm is full of cheap thrills, and not just of the early nudity variety. The short film has a ton of death and gore, knocking in a whole lot of bodies despite it's 14-ish minute run-time. It's the kills that drive this movie as, in 14 short minutes, the film isn't able to build much in suspense, or thrills. Hell, it doesn't even really go in for much in the way of acting, sound design, decent editing, or good direction. I don't watch to judge this fan-film too harshly as it was done on the cheap and released for free, but there were times when this film as nearly unwatchable.
Also note, when editing your film, don't use a shot of one of the "corpses" obviously blinking. I get this is a low budget fan film, but take more than one take of your scenes so you can use a better shot than that. Just one of those little issues I couldn't help but notice that then ruined the overall experience even more.
Obviously this was a labor of love, and it does have some pretty good moments -- a decent stabbing, a good head smashing. It really does all come down the kills themselves, and the film delivers on that front. And when we judge it against many of the previous, official works in the series, those films generally didn't have good editing, direction, production design, acting, or even thrills or good kills. So, frankly, compared to that history this fan-film is an improvement. That said, it's still not for anyone other than the Friday the 13th faithful. If you need your fix of Jason kills you could certainly do much worse (even in the official canon).
That said, you could also do much, much better...
The Killing Floor:
Lust. The film opens with the two girls making out, which is really all it takes for Jason to think one (or both) of them deserve to die. Oddly, it's the shy, hesitant one that gets offed, not the girl that immediately goes skinny dipping. Where are your priorities, Jason?
When the skinny dipping blond goes into the lake, the shy girl is kidnapped (noiselessly) and dragged off. The blond looks around for her for a bit before giving up (bitch move there, just ditching your friend), and then Jason drags the girl back into frame before snapping her neck.
Final Body Count:
Five. The girl at the beginning of the film, the blond's sister, the guy that constantly hits on the blond (who, really, deserved it more than anyone else in this short), a neighbor, and then finally the blond. We also have a bonus tag with the father getting captures by Jason but we don't technically see him die so it doesn't count.
Never Hike Alone
This film has been called "the best Friday the 13th fan film" and it's easy to see why. All of the issues I had with The Storm are nonexistent here. This is a film, weighing in at about 55 minutes (give or take), with high production values, good acting, and great direction. It is, honestly, better than just about any of the proper films in the series, without exception.
In Never Hike Alone we're introduced to Kyle McLeod (Andrew Leighty), a video-blogger how runs an Online show about trail hiking. He's popular enough to have a dedicated fan-base and get sponsorship deals, and his show consists of him, wearing a GoPro, wandering trails and occasionally doing "confessional"-style videos. As we join up with him he's ventured out on a four day hike around a big lake, something that will provide plenty of footage for his next episode. He just have to survive long enough to post it.
I'm sure you can already see where this is going: the lake he's hiking around (whatever name the locals have now given it) is Crystal Lake, site of the camp where Jason died, where his mother was killed in her murder spree of revenge, and then where Jason came back and has been killing people, year after year, ever since. Kyle finds the campsite, decides to venture in, and then, because it's getting late, he sets up for the night at Camp Crystal Lake. And then Jason shows up, and it becomes a battle for survival as Kyle tries to first escape, and then kill, the undead murderer. Good luck with that.
The thing that Never Hike Alone does that hasn't actually been done in previous Friday the 13th films is pitting one person, alone, against Jason. The expectations for an encounter like this are already different than anything else we've seen. There's no group of co-eds to all get offed, one-by-one, as their friends somehow casually forget they exist. There's no escalating bloodbath that is used to mask the complete lack of suspense. It's just one guy and 50 minutes to tell his tale, so instead of a body count this film absolutely has to bank in suspense.
Quite honestly, I've never found a Friday the 13th to be as compelling, or thrilling, as Never Hike Alone. This film really does have it all, with a good build up, plenty of suspense, some decent jump-scares, and even a bit of gore. It builds and builds, exhibiting a level of control over the storytelling that is miles above most entries in this series. It might be a low-budget film but it's also a master-class in Slasher film making.
The only thing that ruins this film at all is the last part of the last act. There's a sequence why Kyle is found by some paramedics, a nice way to cap the sequence and show that Kyle got away eventually. The problem is that none of the actors featured in this sequence -- Katie Schwartz, Robert DuBois, nor Thom Mathews -- have the acting chops of Leighty. It's 45 minutes of superb acting followed by 5 minutes with a high school acting troupe. Quite a jarring step down, all things considered. Still, on the whole, this is the most effective film I've ever seen in the series, fan-made or otherwise.
The Killing Floor:
Doubting the victim. It's pretty clear at this point that when someone thinks the victim is crazy, or making things up, or just delusional and out of their mind from fear, that's what that person is going to do. Doubly-so when there's clearly at least five minutes left in the run time and we need at least one more scare for the audience. Don't be a doubter, people. Survive the film.
One of two paramedics, the one that finds an old Playboy in our hero's gear (that he himself found at Camp Crystal Lake) and then looks at it. Any kind of lust is going to also put you on the killing list.
Final Body Count:
Two, both the idiot paramedics, but what the film lacks in kills it more than makes up for in thrills.
Friday the 13th: The Game The Movie
And finally we finish with a bit of a lark. Friday the 13th: The Game The Movie isn't actually a full film, of any length. Instead it's a fake trailer for a movie based on the 1989 NES game, Friday the 13th: The Game, a wretched classic era title that bore little resemblance to the actual movies it was based on. Yes, Jason was in it, and yes, camp counselors had to run and hide from him, but overall this felt about as tangential to the original series of films as any game could be.
That's the charm of this fake trailer. By positing itself as a movie based on the game that was (loosely) based on the movie, the trailer is able to poke fun at just how bad, and stupid, and nonsensical the video game really was. It jokes about the idiotic ideas, the weird graphics, the fact that Jason's mother's head is somehow a sub-boss. This game really made no sense, and it's fun to see it ripped apart like this in such a gleeful manner.
I am glad they kept this skit to just a 2-ish minute trailer -- any longer and the joke would have out-stayed its welcome. But as a fun little parody of a bad game, Friday the 13th: The Game The Movie nails it perfectly.