A young woman bound in the front seat of a parked car watches helpless as her captor methodically digs a grave in the desert ground. The bloody lifeless body of her boyfriend lies framed in the rear-view mirror, a fate she will fight at all costs to avoid for herself. But this is only the beginning of a brutal struggle where survival could be worse than death.
From writer/director Christopher James Lang and writer/star Amanda Todisco Valley of Ditches presents the story of three people in the desert. One alive, one dead, and the one who is responsible for it all.
Emilia (Todisco) manages to free herself from the front seat and begins to crawl her way across the desert. However, she doesn’t get far before the mysterious stranger (Russell Bradley Fenton) catches up to her. Her breaks her leg and takes her back to the spot where her deceased boyfriend Micahel (Jeremy Sless) lies next a freshly dug pit. Before shackling her to Michael and pushing them both into the pit, he explains to her that too many squander the gifts that God gives them. He further explains his own gift is recognizing the guilty and takes it upon himself to punish them.
With its non-linear storytelling, Valley of Ditches does a terrific creating tension and anxiety. Emilia struggles to find a way out the situation as day turns to night. As she drifts in and out of sleep she remembers her relationship with Michael. And as the snarls of desert wildlife begin to close in around the pit she flashes back to life with her abusive father . In Emilia, Lang and Todisco have created a character who has to overcome some unthinkable obstacles to survive. And even though she simply fighting for her own survival, Todisco performance makes you feel she is really fighting for something bigger.
One of the things I love about good indie film making is the way it forces directors to shoot around things that would otherwise betray the low budget. Valley of Ditches does do a good job of this, most of the time. However, the one weak spot is an odd decision to shoot a, less than convincing, prop in a way that comes close to taking me out of the film. Fortunately, Todisco’s performance in the scene is strong enough to overcome this. Quicker cuts and tighter shots could have potentially made this an amazing scene.
There are so many questions that come up during the film that go unanswered. But this is not a bad thing. The filmmakers are smart enough to know that not every question needs answer. Therefore we get a film that doesn’t feel cluttered with excess backstory and justifications. Instead it allows you to share the fear, heartbreak, and anger on a simple primal level with Emilia.
|Valley of Ditches|