Canadian writer/director Christopher Donaldson wants you to know that Ditched is supposed to be “that B-movie you accidentally missed in 1986”. Do not watch it hoping for a deep message or psychological layers to peel, that’s not his goal. Watch it for the gory thrill ride that it is and be prepared to groan at some of the campier lines.
Ditched opens with first responder Melina (Marika Sila) awakening in the back of an upturned ambulance with a concussion. Her confusion is amplified by her fast-talking patient Franson (Kris Loranger) who is not just strapped to his gurney, he’s shackled to it. While he tries to get her to release him, more characters come to and enter the scene. It seems there’s been an accident; the ambulance and a police car went off the road 100 feet above, injuring most of the passengers. Melina attends to her partners Aiden (Lee Lopez) and Jake (Declan O’Reilly) while Officer Revesz (J. Lindsay Robinson) sets out to determine the cause of the accident and find a signal for his phone. He believes they were attacked, so before he leaves he gives Melina a gun and teaches her to ‘point it at somebody doing a bad thing, and they’ll stop doing the bad thing’. (rolling eyes)
Before long, something looking like a Sasquatch walks past the ambulance and all hell breaks loose. What began as a routine inmate transfer convoy quickly devolves into a game of cat and mouse between a team of men in ghillie suits and everyone else. The action is almost non-stop, and at some point, the viewer forgets that they are watching a B-movie while they get sucked into the question of why this is happening to these people. Donaldson very deliberately sets each character up to evoke strong viewer opinions about who they are, but we realize we are wrong as their secrets are exposed one by one. Melina just wants to get home to her daughter, Aiden is an annoying wimp, Jake is a kindly old fella, Franson is a psychopath, a prisoner called Sideburns (Reamonn Joshee) who is trapped in the back seat of the police cruiser is a thug, Revesz is a hero, and his partner Officer Kerr (Lara Taillon) is a tough but empathetic woman who will get the job done. Or are they?
Cinematically, this film is hard to describe. The constant lens flares interrupt large parts of the screen for long periods of time, but some are used so artistically that it can almost be forgiven. The colour of the lighting changes often, perhaps to enhance the emotion and pace of various scenes? It’s not overtly confusing, it just feels unnecessary. The biggest question for me, though, is the orchid. When Donaldson is switching scenes, he often focuses on an orchid growing out of the forest floor in the foreground before extending the shot. The flower is never mentioned by any character and seems out of place in the otherwise typical Canadian forest. Melina, the innocent first responder, keeps insisting that she is not supposed to be where she is. I wonder, then, if the orchid mirrors Melina’s character, an innocent that is out of place. If this is the case, this is no B-movie story. It would take the psychological depth of the film to a new level and make some of the almost parody-like parts nonsensical. Perhaps the intelligence here was an accident.
The writing is actually very good, with careful character development that deceives us exactly as Donaldson wanted it to. The way the plot unfolds is totally unexpected and will hold viewers on the edge of their seats waiting to see what they will learn next. Melina’s character is relatively weak for the first third of the movie, but she finds her voice and does a good job right through to the end of her story. Loranger is hands down the best actor in the cast playing a psychopath like a pro. You’ll love to hate him.
The gore in Ditched is fantastic, with several cringe-worthy scenes for Sideburns and Caine (Mackenzie Gray), the leader of the ghillie suit men. There are guts and brains galore that splash and spray the camera as any good 80s horror would, and they carry on throughout the entire movie. The last scene, in fact, will be memorable for all who view it. It’s brilliant.
Ditched won’t be winning any Academy Awards, but I don’t think that’s Donaldson’s goal for this one. I think he’d be happy with a small cult following and the knowledge that his nod to his favourite genre made it to the festival circuit. Ditched will satisfy your craving for nostalgic gore horror, just don’t think too hard about that orchid.
Ditched was viewed at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2021
Kate’s love of all things dark began as a child and deepened when she realized what being an adult meant. She was born with a pencil in her hand and loves nothing more than writing horrific stories to tantalize her inner demons. Kate lives in Hamilton, Ontario Canada with her husband and her boys, stirring up trouble wherever she can.