Ginger Nuts of Horror
This movie doesn't just have similarities to The Crow—it wants to be The Crow. The problem is where Alex Proyas's movie gets to the premise in less than 15 minutes, and has the grime and grit of a noir film with futuristic German expressionist influences, Karen Lam's Evangeline takes close to 45 (more than half its running time), and while its themes seem to be heavier at first, it pays them little attention. When Evengeline is finally murdered, the movie then spends the rest of its short screen time in full revenge-mode. But its scenes of revenge are awkward, as if the production hadn't heard of a stunt coordinator. And scenes which might be interesting, with the "creature" or "spirit" possessing Evangeline, seem like they've been pulled straight of a '90s music video by Floria Sigismondi—something by The Smashing Pumpkins or Marilyn Manson.
The official blurb, according to Uncork'd Entertainment (the missing 'e' is intentional, a la William Shakespeare): Evangeline leaves home to expand her horizons at college. But just as Evangeline makes friends and begins to break out of her shell, she attracts the attention of a sociopathic fraternity leader and his two sadistic cohorts, who beat her to death in an isolated cabin. Evangeline's corpse is left to rot in the woods, where it is invaded by an ancient demon spirit. The demon restores Evangeline to life. She is now able to avenge her murder, however, the more Evangeline inflicts deathly violence upon her killers, the more demonic she becomes. Her face begins to resemble a powdered white death mask. Slowly losing her humanity, Evangeline surveys her cracked hands after each revenge killing, realizing she is becoming a demon.
This "slowly losing her humanity" stuff mentioned, I don't recall it being explored during the movie at all. The movie opens with a man in a plastic suit burying a girl alive in the woods, while a young girl narrates about old spirits and cursed land in similar The Crow fashion. Its IMDB page says the movie was inspired by the Pickton murders (Robert Pickton was a farmer who killed dozens of prostitutes and fed them to his pigs, one of Canada’s most notorious serial killers), but aside from them both murdering women, there are no similarities to be found. From there we cut to a '90s Se7en-style credit sequence which sets the tone, unfortunately, for what's to follow.
Kat de Lieva does fine in her role as innocent preacher's daughter Evangeline, but the script doesn't give her much to do after the first half aside from prancing around hitting people with pipes and looking moody in a long jean coat. Her roommate takes her to a frat party, as mentioned, and here is where it becomes predictable and sort of bonkers. Of course the rich kids in charge of the frat are psychopaths, because all rich kids are psychopaths. I was hoping for more (having not read the blurb until preparing to write this review), so I kept giving the film the benefit of the doubt, but it just continued painting by numbers. Evangeline is attracted to these boys because she's supposed to be. The lead boy takes her to an old hunting cabin in the woods—we suspect she's going to be Carrie'd at any moment—then he and his friends play hide and go seek (because they like the thrill of the chase? Never explained, nor even briefly mentioned, but it seems counterproductive). They beat her, and choke her to death, disposing of her body in the woods in a predictably boring fashion. She's taken in by some homeless men who live in the woods, but none of them think to take her to the hospital or a shelter for some reason. From then on she's apparently mute from trauma, only gives frightened looks, and eats the one evil homeless man's portion of food. He threatens to pimp her out, then later, left alone with her, predictably tries to rape her.
The killer is sort of interesting. Obsessed with his car, with fitness. He paints the palms of his victims and presses them into a scrapbook. He's got tattoos all over his body of hands. But it's just surface. He's never given any motivation, and we never really care to find out. We think, maybe, that the movie is setting up their eventual meeting to be something big… a Pacino and de Niro “Meeting At the Diner” scene, where the serial killer finally meets a girl who fights back, but when she actually does turn the tables on her tormentors, it's almost silly and off-hand. The movie is like Evangeline herself: it wants to play dress-up, but it's too afraid to get down and really dance in the dark.
Next, she's off to kill the homeless guy who tried to rape her. She has no trouble finding him. One moment, she's remembering what he'd done to her, and the next she's saving some other girl from the same fate she'd almost suffered at his hands herself, then making him lick his own blood off the street before snapping his neck. They could have spent a scene or two showing the hunt, but maybe that's too much to ask. Suddenly she’s wearing clown makeup (or the "powdered white death mask" of the blurb, which seems to change often from light makeup to thick and pasty), and murdering the rich boys one by one. At one point she seemed to be free of the curse, but she still doesn't speak… and she still has one more villain to kill.
Technically, it's a decent looking film. It's shot well, for the most part, and edited to mostly flow as a film should. Too often it cuts to the bare room, which sometimes seems to be inside Evangeline's head, but in the beginning the serial killer's victims were also there. It kept cutting to that room throughout, where Evangeline sits on a chair in a dress that looks like it’s from the wardrobe of The Ring, and she pouts or cries or laughs in reaction to whatever the "demon" makes her do. I suppose it must have been a metaphor, that each of these women were locked in their own personal Hells, but maybe the film went over my head. Its nominations for various awards, along with two wins, certainly seems proof that somebody appreciated it.
There were some unforgivable sins. Somehow, the rich kid knows exactly which homeless guy had helped Evangeline, even though they'd never seen them together. He didn't even find the guy in the woods, or his shopping cart. So they string him up and make him confess—to what, I have no idea. There is also some fairly corny dialogue: "Go to Hell," she says, and spits on him; then, "Welcome to Hell," moments later, when she somehow pulls him into her "personal Hell" to kill him.
The movie would be fine if it tried harder to be horror, or had explored more of the trauma side of the story, or even dealt with the struggle within Evangeline between the "ancient demon” spirit’s need to exact vengeance on her tormentors and her Christian upbringing’s "turn the other cheek." There's so much Biblical imagery I expected it would explore this. What we get instead is a pretty lackluster revenge movie with supernatural elements, and neither part worked.