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First Look Review - Evangeline

Rape revenge thriller with a supernatural twist.


Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Karen Lam

Starring: Kat de Lieva, Richard Harmon, Mayumi Yoshida



"Whereas the gruesome implications of the storyline should really get under the audience’s skin, the casual attitude towards plot detail and motivation makes the horror of Evangeline all too easy to brush off."


Innocence ruined is the theme of writer/director Karen Lam’s emotive supernatural thriller Evangeline. In this gory revenge movie, we follow the eponymous character- a sheltered 21 year old girl who is still mourning the untimely death of her younger sister- as she begins a new life in a big city college. Unfortunately, Evangeline is about to discover that the wider world is a much scarier, more violent place than she could ever imagine.
Evangeline begins with promise. A child’s sickly voiceover intones of an ancient evil hidden within the forestry surrounding the town, as, on screen, a creepy figure in protective clothing buries a plastic-wrapped body in the undergrowth. A close up reveals that, even as the damp soil covers her, the anonymous young woman inside is still alive. We then cut to the safer environs of a leafy campus, as Evangeline (Kat De Lieva) first encounters roommate Shannon (Mayumi Yoshida). The two leads’ chemistry is instant; with Shannon taking the clueless Evangeline under her wing as ‘this year’s project’. Before the venture can be completed, however, Eva develops an eye for big man on campus Michael Konner, who looks like (with all due respect to actor Richard Harmon) the most sinister looking sophomore in all of existence. Michael turns out to be as bad as he appears to be too, as he and his frat boy chums later chase Eva through the fabled woods, and catch her, beat her half to death, eventually leaving her to die.
That’s not all though. If we didn’t already get the message that some men are violent, sociopathic creeps, Eva is then seemingly rescued by an unlikely troupe of hobos. By this point, however, Eva is still in a form of shock, and is unable to properly retaliate when one of the men takes exception to her presence and attempts to rape her. Pulling herself together, Eva makes a run for it along the long road back into town. But, wouldn’t you know it, she then bumps into the psychopath we saw in the opening scenes! Before he can rape and finally murder the luckless Eva though, the spirit of the forest imbues her, making Eva into a creature of supernatural power. Finally, she can enact her revenge.
There are several interesting ideas in Evangeline. Macabre details such as the psychopath taking paint handprints of his victims, which he then later tattoos onto his person; the symbolic associations of the girls with the leafy, auburn nature of campus, and the men with mechanical devices such as cars and bench presses; the sense of mythology that the film suggests. Ultimately, however, there is too much going on in this film. The series of unfortunate events that befall Eva are too much of a stretch, and seems to make the assumption that most men in Canada are vicious, practising misogynists. Horror is often not knowingly reasonable in its use of representations and stereotypes, but this is Don’t Go in the Woods by way of Andrea Dworkin; reductive, frenetic and robbed of even the scant credibility revenge dramas crucially build their narratives upon. Certainly, the frat boys who seemingly murder Eva (the first time) don’t seem too concerned in this day and age of C.S.I. about leaving traces, DNA, or even tidying away the corpse! Whereas the gruesome implications of the storyline should really get under the audience’s skin, the casual attitude towards plot detail and motivation makes the horror of Evangeline all too easy to brush off.
On a more positive note, Lam’s direction of her actors is always true, and she can certainly tell a story. Evangeline’s elegiac style, carefully composed of slow fades and airless flash backs, dignifies the narrative’s circumlocution and displays clear aesthetic flair. While I cannot recommend Evangeline wholly, it will be interesting to see what Lam does next.




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