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The Orchard (2022) Review

After his grandfather (Gary Deatherage, Jayli Wolf: Child of the Government) is found dead under mysterious circumstances among his world-famous cherry trees, Lucas (Lucas Szuch) inherits the orchard despite a total lack of knowledge or experience in farming. Seeking a change of lifestyle, he and his girlfriend Kate (Kate Webb) decide to run it rather than sell it and drive out to it in a long sequence highlighting Alberta’s scenery, a nerve grating country song and humorous asides about things like a semi running over someone’s pet goats. 

In any case, he’s back where he spent much of his younger years, and with old friends come old problems. And since he’s not long out of rehab, that’s the last thing he needs. But the choice is made for him when he accidentally prunes off a finger instead of a branch, he claims the tree bit him, and is prescribed Oxycontin for the pain. Something that mixes all too well with the psych meds he’s on to deal with the car accident that killed his family.

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Written by Kerry McArthur, who co-directed it with Mark Wolfe (Wheels) The Orchard is a film that suffers from a severely split personality. It’s part domestic drama about a troubled relationship. Their troubles are hinted at near the start when Lucas has to fake being OK with Kate’s family’s plans to visit. And even before his accident, the two have a screaming match about his not taking his psych meds, which is leading to flashbacks and what almost looks like a seizure of some sort. This isn’t helped by her discovery late in the proceedings that she’s pregnant.

That at least somewhat dovetails into its themes about the opioid epidemic and what it’s doing to rural communities. But that’s a theme that’s been done to death, and The Orchard doesn’t have anything new to say on the subject, or on addiction in general for that matter. That may be due to the long road the film travelled from the start of production in 2019 to its release at the end of 2023. What may have felt fresh then has become less so in the passing years.

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But, I hear you interject, what about the blood drinking cherry trees? That is what The Orchard is about, right? That’s what the distributor wants you to think, but you can put any ideas of this being anything like The Vineyard, let alone Meat Weed Madness, out of your head because there is so little horror in this film that invoking the genre verges on false advertising.

We hear about how Lucas’ sister was never the same after spending a night in the orchard, and his grandfather’s belief that blood was the secret to producing superior harvests. Are the problems with this year’s crop due to a lack of that special nutrient? But apart from a couple of nightmares, there’s little to back it up beyond one death that’s anything but horrific or suspenseful and feels more like an afterthought than a major plot point. At no point did The Orchard’s story seem like anything but the delusions of a drug addled mind.

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I know it’s the distributors not the filmmakers who decide how to promote it, and a horror film will sell better than a drama. But the end result was the same, I felt like I’d been cheated. At least I saw it free on Tubi, I can only imagine how somebody who spent money on a rental or the Blu-ray would feel when they sat down to an even less funny version of Letterkenny.

McArthur and Wolfe are currently working on a second film, Exophoria which is also drug themed and set in the same community, with some of the same characters. Hopefully this time, if they’re going to include genre elements, they use them for more than a distraction. In the end, if you’re looking for another film about opioids in rural communities, The Orchard might hold your attention. If you’re looking for horror, look elsewhere because these fields are as barren of frights as those in a Children of the Corn sequel.

BayView Entertainment has released The Orchard on Blu-ray as well as to Digital Platforms.

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