Evangeline (2013, 1 hr 25 mins)
The first film of the BITS Fest was Evangeline. I had heard about this film some time ago, and I was glad to be able to see its North American Premiere at the festival.
Evangeline (Kat De Lieva) is a college freshman who leaves a haunted past to start anew at school. She is quickly taken under the wing of her sharp and sassy roommate Shannon (Mayumi Yoshida) and new friend Molly (Natalie Grace). The girls hit the frat party scene where Evangeline catches the eye of Michael Konner (Richard Harmon), big man on campus. One long weekend, their flirtation becomes a thing of nightmares as Konner and his cronies Ali (Dejan Loyala) and Mitch (Madison Smith), make a game of murder and toy with Evangeline’s life. After the frat boys leave her for dead, she is found by two kind homeless men (Kelvin Redvers and John Shaw), and nursed back to some semblance of humanity. She is changed young woman, possessed by an angry forest spirit, and bent on revenge. There is also a serial killer afoot called Mr. K (David Lewis), who sports a creepy tattoo of his murder victims’ hands. Unfortunately he looks like a clean-cut normal guy, and moves around town with ease. With these threats lurking, Evangeline has her work cut out for her as she hunts those who did her wrong and those who intend to.
I found this story to be complex. Evangeline’s character on the surface seems to lack experience in the real world, but there is an underlying anguish and weariness within that is illustrated with flashbacks to her family life. It makes her transformation that much more poignant as we see that anguish rear its ugly head with her re-animation and her hunger for revenge. The embodiment of misogyny is clear with frat boys Konner, Ali and Mitch, and Mr. K as they try to dominate the supposed weaker sex . There is a symbolic vindication as Evangeline hunts them down for all their heinous wrong-doings, fueled by the angry forest spirit. Although the story focuses on Evangeline’s plight and transformation, my only wish for the film would be to expand on Evangeline’s family life, and more background on Mr. K and the forest spirit.
The word “atmospheric” has been mentioned when describing Evangeline, and I have to agree. The film had a dream like and was artfully shot. I especially liked the scenes with Evangeline and the spirit that awakened the rage in her. They were stark but powerful images of all the emotions Evangeline experienced as she battled with her inner processes and struggles.
Kat De Lieva and Richard Harmon gave us some stand out performances. Kat’s huge eyes really conveyed emotion, and Harmon’s heartless portrayal of Konner made me want to reach out and punch him. And David Lewis always delivers. I love seeing him in almost every Canadian production out there. He is a solid actor and he really played the psychotic serial killer well, reprising his role from the short film Doll Parts mentioned below.
During the Q & A after the screening the audience got a chance chat with director Karen Lam and stars Kat De Lieva, Richard Harmon, and Madison Smith. Lam told us that Evangeline was loosely based on her 2011 short film Doll Parts. She wanted to expand on the hitchhiker myth, and create a story about the victim fighting back. She also gave props to director of photography Michael Balfry, who she gave free rein to on the 18 day shoot where he did such a beautiful job. De Leiva also did all her own stunts as she had military training, and Harmon was a familiar face from the AMC series The Killing, which spurred Lam to pursue him until she had him cast in the film.
I must give honorable mention to Lam’s other entry in the festival, a short call The Meeting. Her fascination with serial killers continues with an A. A. type meeting for murderers on the mend. Really funny, morbid and well acted, with a great punch line. Definitely worth checking out.
It’s pretty clear that Lam is a triple force talent that writes, directs, and produces unique horror films, and this is evident with her Bloodies win (The BITS Fest awards) for Evangeline as best director and Michael Balfry for best cinematography. I am really excited to see what she has in store for us in the future. I hope she’s writing away this very minute for her next twisted tale!