Director Karen Lam, director of the disturbing and frankly blood-curly new horror Evangeline spoke to us about the inspiration for her latest work.
Where did you get the initial idea for Evangeline?
The feature is loosely based on my short film “Doll Parts” (2011) and was partially inspired by my favourite samurai comics like Lone Wolf and Cub. It also came from my wanting to create an origin story for a kind of female superhero.
You have quite a unique portrayal of the paranormal when Evangeline encounters the demon. Where did you draw inspiration for this?
I’m a huge fan of Asian horror, so the aesthetic probably is most inspired by those films: also Japanese Noh theatre. The look of the demon is actually inspired by the fashion photography of Irving Penn.
There have been a lot of horror films based in College and University – what sets yours apart from classics such as House on Sorority Row and The Roommate?
There’s a certain tone in those films that isn’t what Evangeline is about. We start at the college/university, but I was more interested in trying to create a kind of watercolour Gotham than depicting university life.
You won an award for Best Director at the 2013 Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival. Congratulations! You pretty much got to create your film exactly how you wrote it. How did you find it, directing your own work?
The more creative control you have, the less money you have to work with, so it’s a double-edged sword. I had a fraction of the budget for Evangeline than I did for my first feature film Stained, but I think I prefer the creative freedom to take chances on every level.
Do you prefer to write the film or direct it?
For me, it’s a dual process. When I’m writing, I almost forget I’ll be directing: it’s just about getting the story and ideas out. When I’m directing, I try to push the visuals as far as I can, while keeping in mind what is at the core of each scene. I think the writing part helps me plan in the directing: I know what is integral and what I can change.
You got to work with the likes of David Lewis and Richard Harmon for this film, both who are known for starring in horror films and television shows. What was that like? Did you find yourself trying to live up to the expectations of their previous work?
David starred in my previous short films, including Doll Parts, so we have a long friendship and working relationship. I directed a short film he wrote/directed/produced called Stalled, so this film was a continuation of that. I’ve long admired Richard’s work in The Killing and in indie features, but I wasn’t affected so much by what he had done but tried to give him the creative freedom on this film to go with his own instincts.
Evangeline has received mixed to positive reviews from critics upon its release. Were they what you expected?
I don’t ever know what to expect from reviews: I write and direct from an audience/fan perspective (since I love the genre I work in). My favourite films are all really divisive, so the aim of having something universally accepted isn’t really my objective.
There have been quite a few reviews that suggest there is a subtle, underlining theme of religion when it comes to Evangaline’s revenge: an eye for an eye against turning the other cheek. Is this something you intentionally wrote into your work? Do you think of yourself as a religious person?
I have a strong religious background: I grew up in Brandon, Manitoba and all my friends had strong religious ties. I minored in comparative religion for my undergraduate degree so yes, the religious aspect is absolutely intentional. I try to use my films to explore morality: I’m interested in hierarchy, power imbalance and ethics. At this point, I still think having faith is vital — although I don’t belong to any specific religion.
Following the success of Evangaline, what’s next for Karen Lam? Are you currently writing/directing anything else?
I have three feature scripts I’m in development on, and currently directing my first feature documentary. We finished a web series “Mythos” which is loosely based on the Evangeline universe and we just received three Leo nominations from our provincial film and tv associations.
What are your favourite horror films? What would recommend to your fans?
I love Asian horror, particularly Korean serial killer films and old Japanese ghost stories. I love The Chaser, I Saw the Devil, Audition, Onibaba, Kwaidan… There’s a really simple elegance to the filmmaking that I really admire.
You’ve probably been asked this a million times over, but as you’re a horror writer, I have to ask: What scares you the most?
Demons. Possession. Losing your mind.
Uncork’d Entertainment will release EVANGELINE, starring The 100′s Richard Harmon, on VOD May 8, 2015, and on DVD June 9, 2015.