DreadWorld Review: Evangeline (2013/15)

One of the universal truths about the entertainment industry is that there really are no original ideas left. Everything labeled "industry changing" or "a hot new idea" is equally built on the backs of all the ideas and properties that have come before it. If you squint hard at even the most ardent avant garde film property, you can see it's influences - and there is nothing wrong with that. Nothing comes from nothing, and everything on this planet is built from something else. The film industry is no different. The trick is to use those influences to craft an interesting, engaging narrative. A narrative that while paying homage or tribute to its influences, still brings something unique to them. In that task, and so many more, Karen Lam's Evangeline is a colossal failure.

Evangeline (Kat de Leiva), Eva, for short, is an innocent, religious twenty something looking girl dropped off by an unknown person for her first day at college. Matriculating with nothing but a medium sized duffel bag, she meets her outgoing room mate Shannon (Mayumi Yoshida). Shannon, for her part wastes no time in convincing Eva to forgo most of her religious leanings and accompany her and her friend Molly to a frat party. This isn't a typical frat party though, it's the kind of stereotypical frat party you only find in films made by people who probably never went to frat parties. At said party, Eva meets Michael (Richard Harmon) the dreamy head of the most popular fraternity on campus (of course she does). They have a moment before she ends up face down in the toilet, refunding everything that she's had to drink earlier in the night. Despite college just starting, the next day starts a long weekend and everyone has left campus. Everyone except Eva and Michael that is.

Michael invites Eva to his fraternities cabin where he charms her just enough to get her to drink something laced with any number of date rape drugs. Eva awakens lost in the forest and being pursued by Michael and his two meat head frat brothers a la The Most Dangerous Game. They catch her and kill her (Last House on the Left). Simple enough right? Eva comes back and takes her revenge on those who have wronged her right? Wrong. It's far more complicated then that. There are ancient curses, at least two more attacks on Eva, homeless people living in the woods, a serial killer, and enough b-roll footage cribbed from The Crow to fill a disc of deleted scenes from that film.

The other thing that stands out about Evangeline other than the fact that there way too much going on in the film is that Vancouver must be the worst place in the world to live. As I mentioned above, there are random serial killers wandering the streets and working out in public gyms naked. There are roving groups of homeless people throughout the surrounding forest. There are cursed burial grounds in said forest. One thing that Vancouver doesn't have though? Cops. When Eva disappears her friends post flyers announcing that she's missing like they just lost their puppy. Do they ever get campus security or the local police force involved? Of course not. Despite the presence of a local serial killer and a murderous fraternity preying on young college girls, there's no police presence whatsoever.

The film does feature some cool looking visuals, especially when Eva is stuck in her demon haunted purgatory. Despite it's obvious homage to early 2000's J-Horror, it's still sufficiently original and creepy to not feel like a blatant rip off - unlike most of the rest of the film. Richard Harmon, who you've seen in any number of things before, is good as the underutilized creepy frat leader. Despite his solid performance he does seem bored with the pedestrian, rehashed, dialogue he's given. It could have been a meaty, scene stealing role he could have had a shit load of fun with had the material not let him down. Think Kip Pardue in Hostel III, a film made better because Purdue and others can really dig into the material and make something of it.

Evangeline is one of those films that tries to be way too much and crumbles under the weight of such a monumental endeavor. It's only 80 something minutes but feels far closer to 2 hours simply because there are so many sub-plots and tonal shifts. Check it out if you are a super fan of The Crow and would like to see a lady Eric Draven, or if you are related to Richard Harmon. Other than that, Evangeline is a solid pass. Evangeline will be available on VOD early in May and on DVD/Blu-Ray via Uncork'd Entertainment this June.

* star out of *****

That's it for me. As always thanks of reading and "enjoy every sandwich."

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