VOD REVIEW: EVANGELINE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: KAREN LAM / SCREENPLAY: KAREN LAM / STARRING: KAT DE LIEVA, RICHARD HARMON, MAYUMI YOSHIDA, DAVID LEWIS, KELVIN REDVERS / RELEASE DATE: MAY 8TH (US VOD), JUNE 9TH (US DVD), TBC (UK)
When naive student Evangeline starts a new life at college she hopes to leave her lonely and tragic past behind her. However, after being brutalised and left for dead by a trio of psychotic frat boys, she merges with the sprit of a vengeance demon and begins striding down a path of violent revenge stained with blood and corpses.
With Evangeline, Karen Lam expands her 2011 serial killer short Doll Parts into a feature-length fable looking at the repercussions of kidnapping and murder from the perspective of the victim and those they leave behind. The film is in essence a dark fairytale, with techniques like skewed camera angles, blurred focus, flared lighting and echoing sound granting it an ethereal and dreamlike atmosphere, a Guillermo del Toro movie stripped of visual intensity. The gothic ambience (seen more recently in Lam’s web series Mythos) is like a visual representation of a poem’s imagery, juxtaposing the darkness of humanity with forces of supernatural destruction.
Far from a simple possession or direct channelling, Eva and the demon exist in a spiritual symbiosis; while she draws strength from the entity to exact her revenge she still remains herself, albeit with ghostly features, sunken eyes and a slow progressive erosion of her humanity. With every life she takes, she further exposes herself to the darkness spreading within that seeks to consume her soul until all that she ever was is swallowed in a purgatorial limbo.
The story is incredibly simple yet utterly compelling. The personalities of the characters are swiftly defined by their actions, and it’s easy to get a feel for who they are despite little in the way of backstory being offered. As the eponymous star, Kat de Lieva (Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn) has the kind of cherubic beauty that makes her age difficult to estimate, but serves well in portraying Eva’s innocence. It also acts as a visual counterpoint to the hate and rage the demon instils in her, a faint smile of righteous sadism flitting across her youthful face as she inflicts brutal and merciless vengeance upon those who wronged her. As the leader of the murderous gang, Richard Harmon (Continuum, Bates Motel, The 100) continues to forge a career as the world’s most terrifying emo, drawing on a dark intensity that brings forth a chilling, almost reptilian gaze that knows no empathy and seeks no understanding.
As well as a supernatural vengeance film, Evangeline is also a statement against misogyny. It’s no accident that the villains are all men, and each of them targets Eva for no other reason than she is a girl and thus a viable object upon whom they can assert their masculine dominance. The tenets of Eva’s Christian faith occasionally echo in her mind, specifically the bits about mercy and forgiveness, but the film asks why men like this should be deemed worthy of the absolution such teachings advocate. The only remorse any of them show for their actions is at the point of death; they’re not sorry for the things they’ve done, they’re sorry they’ve been dealt the consequences. Vengeance might draw you down a one-way path of darkness, but if the actions taken on it are the only justice to be had, then what you lose of yourself on the way might be worth the sacrifice.