Vancouver-based filmmaker Karen Lam’s works are often rooted in non-fiction , specifically criminal court cases. Her latest film, Evangeline, is no exception. Lam’s main inspiration for this revenge fantasy film was Vancouver: Pickton and the Highway of Tears served as part of the backdrop. Evangeline will be shown as part of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival’s Scare Affair program (Nov. 7).
“Evangeline is based on my short film Doll Parts, which was inspired by the Highway of Tears,” says Lam, who describes herself as a news junkie.
“I took the initial idea of Doll Parts, and wondered if I could turn her (Evangeline) into a vigilante/supernatural superhero of sorts.”
The Natalee Holloway court case was also an inspiration for Evangeline. Holloway, an American teen, went missing during a high school graduation trip to Aruba in 2005. Her body was never found. Lam was intrigued by Holloway’s case, particularly the conviction of Holloway’s “psychopathic” killer Joran van der Sloot.
The film focuses on university student Evangeline who falls prey to a gang of thrill-seeking killers. They leave her in a forest to die, but she is ‘saved’ by an ancient demon spirit that empowers her with “blood-lust for vengeance.”
“She [becomes] an avenging angel – and basically “reborn”, which is the root of “evangelize,” says Lam.
Female revenge and forgiveness are the main themes of Lam’s film. Raised with a lot of Christian beliefs, she still grapples with the idea of “turning the other cheek.”
“The current climate of female inequality and rape culture makes me less able to accept that justice can be done by forgiveness alone. That said, an escalation of violence makes monsters of us all,” says Lam.
Journey into cinema
Lam has always had an interest in film and cinema. In her undergraduate degree, she minored in History with an emphasis on Cinema History. She was an entertainment lawyer before she made the switch to making films.
“I saw a lot of action and creature features growing up, but my love for the horror genre stems from my love of Edgar Allen Poe, Daphne du Maurier, Mary Shelley and Stephen King. I love suspense and the macabre, which explains why I gravitate towards horror and dark fantasy,” says Lam, who often takes on the role of writing – along with producing and directing her projects.
When she began her foray into film, she produced works she describes as a mix between comedy and horror. She took the jobs to get experience as a producer.
“Later, I started developing ideas and scripts with writers and directors. But the writing and directing has made the work much more personal,” Lam says.
So far, Lam has had tremendous responses from film festivals, both genre and non-genre focused.
“I think people are surprised that this film is considered horror. There’s a mistaken notion out there that horror is limited to slasher films, when it’s a much broader range. I hope that audiences at VAFF will feel the same!”
Lam is continually challenging herself.
Her next project is developing Evangeline into a web series. Instead of continuing with the story from the film, she says she will be exploring the mythology that underlies the film.
“The series will be a dark fantasy/fairy tale series rather than a revenge horror,” she says.
For more info: www.vaff.org/2014/films/evangeline/