Karen Lam is a breath of fresh air

by Nav Qateel

After living a sheltered life, and going largely ignored by her overly-devout preacher father, Evangeline Pullman (Kat de Lieva) starts over as a college freshman. Her new roommate Shannon (Mayumi Yoshida), decides to take the shy Evangeline under her wing. Shannon and friend Molly (Natalie Grace) drag Evangeline to a cool frat party, where Evangeline catches the eye of the very popular Michael Konner (Richard Harmon) and his two sidekicks.

It’s not long before Evangeline finds herself being hunted and chased through woods by Michael and his pals, where she’s badly beaten and left for dead. But her body is taken over by a spirit, and now it’s time to take revenge.

Writer-director Karen Lam’s second feature, Evangeline, is a blend of fantasy and horror, and it felt like two films for the price of one. There was teacher Mr. K (David Lewis), who moonlights as a serial-killer, then we have three students who love to torture and kill when the opportunity presents itself. Nothing ties these two arcs of the story together in any meaningful way, which was a pity, as it felt like a missed opportunity to build on these characters and have them somehow connected.

Written & Directed by
Karen Lam
Kat de Lieva, Richard Harmon, Mayumi Yoshida
Release Date
8 May 2015
Nav’s Grade: C+

Kat de Lieva was wonderful as Evangeline, and she managed to keep up the pace of going from shy preacher’s daughter, to suddenly, and inexplicably, becoming a sexy, punk chick with multi-colored hair. That part was pretty weird, especially after Lam took a lot of time and trouble establishing her innocent, wide-eyed, virginal, prayers-before-bed status, only to have her do a complete behaviour reversal. I realise that we were seeing Evangeline coming out of her shell, but the lack of any lead up to her drastic change, only served to confuse.

After being severely beaten by Michael and his two buddies then rescued by a homeless war veteran, when she finally heals, Evangeline outwardly appears taciturn. However, we can see inside her head, where she’s tied to a chair that’s positioned in the center of a small, bare room, and we occasionally glimpse some sort of demon that’s lurking in the background. One assumes this represents Evangeline’s soul and her inner turmoil, which I thought was a nice touch by Lam. Now, whenever Evangeline feels threatened or she’s ready to kick ass, the demon creeps over to her seated and bound form, then takes over her body to give Evangeline superhuman strength. And it’s by this method that she exacts her bloody revenge on all who wronged her.

As well as the multi-lingual, multi-talented Kat de Lieva putting on a good performance, Richard Harmon was convincing as Michael, the alpha male of his small group of hangers-on. Harmon has more than enough experience to allow him to breeze through this sort of material, making it all look so easy. The prolific David Lewis’ character was just begging to have his Mr. K fully fleshed out with lots of additional screen time. His character was infinitely deeper, more interesting and complicated than anyone else, other than Evangeline herself.

Mayumi Yoshida and Natalie Grace, along with Dejan Loyola and Madison Smith, each played their ancillary roles adequately. But for the most part, the other supporting players simply felt superfluous to the proceedings, offering nothing that furthered the story. Evangeline’s little sister and Anthony Shim’s Mark, were perfect examples of that, even though their acting was fine.

I enjoyed the atmospheric visuals, aided by cinematographer Michael Balfry, and underlined by Patric Caird’s score. Evangeline‘s arthouse feel set a mood that I was more than happy to experience. Not everything in Evangeline was strictly logical, and I would liked to have seen Lam showing a bit more restraint when meshing her ideas together. But in this day and age when originality and new ideas are getting ever-more difficult to find, Karen Lam is a breath of fresh air in the low budget, indie-horror arena.