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The Independent Critic

Written & Directed by
Jennifer Campbell
Stefany Mathias, Tony Butler
Running Time

 "Hike" Review 
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I've never cared for camping. There are too many things that can happen when you go into the woods.

Apparently, Hike writer/director Jennifer Campbell agrees.

Hike begins simply enough as a man (Tony Butler) and a woman (Stefany Mathias), obviously or seemingly in love, find themselves amidst God's glory for what appears to be a romantic afternoon amidst nature and with one another.

Hike is about what can happen when you go into the woods. Reviewing a film with a storyline as simple as Hike's is a challenge, for revealing too much would ruin what is a beautifully produced and well constructed horror short.

Alas, I find myself holding my tongue.

What's most horrifying in life? For that matter, what films have you found most horrifying? While the Saw films or the Hostel films may horrify, it's the films that resonate with something sacred inside that leave the strongest impact on us. The idea of a young woman possessed by a demon was horrifying in The Exorcist, while John Carpenter tapped into the darker aspects of a beloved holiday and placed them in smalltown America.

I don't know about you, but John Carpenter's Halloween scared the crap out of me. In this day and age when it seems like horror films opt for more brutality and less actual fear, a film such as Jennifer Campbell's Hike is frighteningly refreshing.

Simple. Nature. Ordinary life. Ah, sweet love.

How terrifying.

Hike is beautifully acted by its co-stars, a seemingly ordinary middle-class couple exchanging loving, if ever so slightly wary, glances and comfortable touches of intimacy and familiarity. Tony Butler doesn't play anything for drama here, a perfect choice that pays off perfectly as his character reveals himself ever so slowly. It is Tony Butler's complete and utter normalcy that leaves you unable to decide if you're looking at Robert Brady or Patrick Bateman.

Similarly, Stefany Mathias is spot on perfect as the young woman seemingly unaware that all is not necessarily beautiful even when beauty is all you can see around you. Life is never truly, completely safe.

Hike is marvelously photographed by D.P. Thomas Billingsley, who captures the beauty and awesomeness of the surroundings while lensing everything in such a way that something intangible feels not quite right from the film's opening moments of a bird singing a song that itself feels uncomfortably eerie. Billingsley also edits the film, occasionally cutting back and forth between shots of nature and humanity - Or is it the nature of humanity? Or the inhumanity of nature? Whatever it is that feels "not quite right," Brian Minato's original music taps right into it and heightens the film's slowly rising sense of paranoia.

In a film that runs just over seven minutes, writer/director Jennifer Campbell and her cast and crew manage to create a film that stays with you long after the closing credits have scrolled by. Sure to be a favorite at indie and horror fests all over, Hike is a reminder of what can happen when you go into the words and that, sometimes, the greatest horrors are right beside you.