By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Karen Lam’s romantic horror genre-bending movie, Evangeline is set make its move deeper into the film festival foray in Asia and Australia beginning this Summer. It made its world premiere last year at Stockholm’s Monsters of Film festival in September, and it has seen a limited release in Canada. In Vancouver, British Columbia, it will receive a special screening on May 15th at The Cinematheque (1131 Howe St.) with a Q&A afterwards to discuss how this story was put together from an editorial standpoint.
This movie embraces several ideas that grew from ideas seeded in her previous works. Her experimental short, The Pit: A Study in Horror, helped develop the scenes where Purgatory is realized, and a few concepts in Doll Parts grew into becoming part of the origin tale established in Evangeline.
Lam decided to turn the tables on the romantic formula that’s created in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Trilogy. She believed the ideas were dis-empowering and it could be done better. She wanted the genres of dark fantasy and horror to have an intellectual counterpoint to a type of popular entertainment that’s having a real impact on young women.
She’s also drawn to what the yūrei represent from Japanese folklore. When the deceased is not given a proper burial, it can persist in the living world as a vengeful spirit. But viewers can also find an influence from First Nations mythology too. In the cinematic world, the films are respectively known as Ju-On and The Crow. Perhaps that’s why a few visual elements in this film are familiar. Lam also says there are visual elements inspired from Zhang Yimou’s House of the Flying Daggers, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, and Lone Wolf and Cub, but for Lam, “I think I was inspired more by DC Comics/Vertigo than any specific film.”
And to cast the right performers to play the principal characters was easy. Kat de Lieva fitted perfectly as Evangeline because Lam had no preconceived notions as to what she was looking for. Eva just needed to be fragile and strong. For this director to learn that de Lieva had trained with the military to help her play the role of Dimah Tchakova in the web-series, Halo IV, only helped clinched the deal. For the male antagonist, Lam had no idea in who could play the role. In fact, she wrote the script while on the same flight as Richard Harmon (who plays the antagonist) going to Los Angeles. She had no idea he had an extensive resume that includes Grave Encounters 2, R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour, Trick r’ Treat, The Killing and Bates Motel.
“I had no idea he was even an actor, but he was exactly who I was thinking of when I wrote the Michael Konner role. I was thrilled when he came into the audition and just nailed it.” says Lam.
When both of these main characters have a dark side that must develop, just what is the movie Evangeline about really? There are layers to uncover, but all of it stems from what Lam loves about horror as a genre. She believes the best are grounded in some degree of what she believes to be true, which is why she likes profiling potential habitual murderers.
“I think all my monsters in this film are human — and yes, I think I wanted to paint serial killers with a wide-ranging palette. One could argue Evangeline herself is a serial killer…” muses Lam.
But this movie does more. For this filmmaker to pen, produce and direct this huge project, there’s also a statement being made. Lam believes this film is a meditation on how rage and revenge can trap people. “We build our cages through our emotions and Evangeline struggles between the Christian concepts of turning the other cheek, and taking an eye for an eye,” says Lam, “Quite simply, this movie is an exploration of the exploitation and helplessness I see in our world every day.”