Courtesy DREAD

In Christopher Donaldson’s directorial debut horror DITCHED, a young paramedic named Melina wakes up from a car crash during a routine prison transfer. With her fellow paramedics, cops, and two prisoners as company, Melina finds herself amidst an ambush that devolves quickly into violence. The film is set to release on VOD on January 18th and Blu-Ray on February 15th.

DITCHED is at its strongest when it leans away from police procedural cliches and into classic slasher tropes. Though the first half of the film is bogged down by slow-moving action and establishing conversation, fans of gratuitous violence will get a kick out of the various murders that occur during the second half of the film. I particularly enjoyed a scene where a character gets shot in his genitalia. The soundtrack is dynamic and exciting, evoking classic 80s slashers and continuing the synth-revival trend set by recent projects like It Follows, The Guest, and Beyond The Gate.

The set and lighting design are commendable, events taking place almost entirely within the fifteen-foot radius of the crash. Characters move between an overturned ambulance and a cop car speared by a tree branch, and both vehicles are well-utilized as props for gratuitous gore and bloodshed. The constant strobing lights of the cop car add colorful lighting and shadows to a film that takes place entirely at night, and the sickly green inside the ambulance sets an uncomfortable, clinical tone.

Given how contained the set is, the film is positioned to be somewhat character-driven, especially with its concerted focus on Melina and her interactions with one of the prisoners. I was expecting something like Friday the 13th or Green Room where the relationships between the characters heavily inform their behavior and survival in relation to one another. But with the exception of the two prisoners, the characters in DITCHED feel thinly written and somewhat cliched, never growing beyond typical first responder tropes. Though the growth of Melina from meek paramedic to fearless survivor is supposed to be a central arc within the story, we ultimately leave with a murky idea of who she is. The fault here lies not with debut Inuit-American actress Marika Sila, who makes a commendable and passionate effort to bring Melina to life, but rather with the writing of the character itself.

Courtesy DREAD

Moreover, the film is rife with clunky scene transitions and spatial inconsistencies that function like visual plot holes, with characters at the cop car seeming inexplicably unaware of what’s happening near the ambulance even though the two vehicles are mere feet apart. Similar claustrophobic survival horrors benefit from keeping their characters physically close to one another to induce further stress, but DITCHED splits them up into smaller groups, making the ensuing violence feel disjointed. It’s only when the survivors retreat into the ambulance during the midway point that the film gains focus and the dynamics of the group really come through.

DITCHED also suffers from poor editing. Frequent cuts are made to a bush of white flowers that serve no immediate thematic purpose. Moments of action cut abruptly to slow pans on the set, distancing the viewer from the events and indicating a clear directorial focus on the look of the film rather than the characters that drive it forward. The costume design of the attackers is also one of the film’s weaker aspects, the director trading traditional slasher masks for Scooby-Doo-esque monster suits that evoke Bigfoot and Swamp Thing. Given how obviously suit-like their appearance is, their initial appearance feels unintentionally campy, though they’re clearly meant to be played for fear, not laughs.

Near the end, the film introduces themes of morality and systemic violence that seem intended to elevate DITCHED from slasher-horror to social-horror, but the film fails to characterize the attackers as a formidable unit rather than a scattered group of fursuits, reducing the emotional impact of the reveal. Ultimately, the genuinely valiant artistic efforts of the cast and crew lose validity amidst an underdeveloped script and questionable directorial choices, so I’d say slasher fans are better off ditching DITCHED.

DITCHED will be available on VOD January 18, 2022, and on Blu-ray February 15, 2022.

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