TAD 2021: Ditched dir. Christopher Donaldson

The Carpenter-esque, Canadian-made, Ditched is available for streaming from the Toronto After Dark film festival today. I think I enjoyed the idea of it more than the actual movie itself.

Melina (Marika Sila), a paramedic, wakes up in her overturned ambulance, and has to brace herself for a long violent night of the soul, as she, her co-workers, and prisoners (they are being transported to the nearby hospital) are driven off the road, and laid siege to.

Right there you have the seeds of Carpenter’s original Assault on Precinct 13, throwing in a synth film score adds to that flavour, but I was a little thrown off by some of the editing and story choices, which causes the film to feel a little top heavy, and consequently causes a bit of a stumble on its execution.

The photography is predominantly solid, making use of the emergency lighting of the ambulance interior as well as the flashing strobes of a nearby police car. And as our marooned cast find themselves without cellphone or radio signal, they also discover that there is someone in the woods with them, that this was planned, and each of them are due for a reckoning before the night is through.

There were a number of moments when I was jarred out of the film, but the concept of it kept drawing me back. There were also a number of moments I felt could have been dragged out, amped for tension, and played for fear.

The reveals when they start happening come way too quick, and the climax feels rushed, instead of delivering us a tightly coiled thrller that has its cast beginning to unfurl, we’re given moments of gore, and troubling pacing. Still you can see the influence of a number of directors and writers on Donaldson’s work, and he works well within the confines of what he has, working to honor those that have guided and shaped his cinematic love.

The location work and lighting is great, there’s some great stuff using silhouettes played against source lighting. But I think the geography could have been spread out a little more – in one sequence I couldn’t understand how Melina couldn’t hear another character who was just outside the ambulance, but in the next bit she could. It’s moments like that which pushed me out of the film.

The important thing is not to take my word for it, check it out for yourself, as well as other titles playing at the festival. You can find them all here.

There is definitely an appeal to this film, as well as the subgenre, and if you turn off the lights, cuddle up under your blanket on the couch, this one is best enjoyed in Toronto… After Dark.

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