Evangeline (2013) Dir. Karen Lam ***
Starring: Kat De Lieva, Richard Harmon
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Though the low budget, but well-crafted picture serves up its fair share of push-button tropes of the genre, these exist as mere surface details that force you to face the real horror in the film - the victimization of women that continues to permeate every fabric of society - especially in places one might least expect the kind of attitudes and behaviour displayed.
In spite of narrative elements involving a shy young college student who is duped and abused by a rich frat boy, the overall effect of the film borders on the surreal as we morph from the real world into a purgatorial dream world. Victims blend with other victims - abusers blend into other abusers and the bucolic backdrop of college town dorms and rain-forest-like woods amidst the landscape of British Columbia eventually yield a kind of nightmare that never ends.
Vengeance seems to fuel the genuinely insane world of the film, but Lam juxtaposes figures of angels and demons with incantations of Judeo-Christian scripture as forms of punctuation and the victims seem to be seeking some form of redemption. Granted, the victims have suffered violence at the hands of their male aggressors simply for being women and yet, they too become otherworldly aggressors - committing acts of horrific violence upon their abusers.
The supernatural purgatory our lead character finds herself in seems to almost mirror the purgatory of the natural world where equality exists in name only and where the Status Quo still seems to expect a division between sexes wherein one is expected to be the aggressor and the other a victim.
Is there empowerment, though? It's there, alright, but it seems to be of the most nightmarish kind - one in which women can only find the strength to avenge. There is no peace by which they can live reasonably within and even in the afterlife, there's no peace. I found the use of religious imagery and scripture extremely disturbing since both are rife with the trappings of patriarchy - all designed to keep women down, in their place and, in a sense, to allow for a kind of open season upon them of abuse and subjugation. Even more sinister and downright ghoulish is the notion that both revenge and redemption must somehow be overtaken by forces far from Holy, but downright demonic.
This is not an easy film to stomach. The violence is extreme and certainly shocking, but most of all, the atmosphere is always ultra-creepy-crawly. Lam's mise-en-scene is consistent in creating feelings of being on-edge. Nothing in the film - no matter how normal, bucolic or perverse the backdrops - ever really feels safe. It's unique and original.
And yes, there are a few scares that will have you jumping out of your seat, so feel free to wear a pair of Depends to the screening.
"Evangeline" has it's North American premiere during the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival 2013 on November 29. For further information, check out the festival's website HERE.