Q&A with Karen Lam

June 1, 2013

Evangeline, your second horror feature that will screen here in the fall, is about female revenge. What compelled you to make this film?

Evangeline is a classic revenge fantasy about a university student in Anywhere, North America, who is murdered by psychopath frat boys. She returns from the grave to wreak revenge. I was exploring the concept that to forgive is divine. It was important to contradict that-to tell a story about a young woman whose own life is worth avenging.

Are you advocating "an eye for an eye" to address violence against women?

The idea of revenge is inculcated in Korean, Japanese, and Chinese films. Sometimes I think this is the only way that violence against women will change. To not fight is unjust, but on the other hand, fighting often doesn't solve anything either. Evangeline is a warning. By coming back as a vigilante, Evangeline loses her soul and becomes a monster. Still, there is a war against women-and it needs addressing.

You grew up in Brandon, Manitoba, with a professor dad and a homemaker mom. How did this nurture an obsession to explore evil?

My upbringing is like an Asian Norman Rockwell painting-except my dad loved revenge films. Early daughter-father bonding moments were watching gory films while he fed me pepperoni sticks.

Horror films are inherently sexist as a genre. Why rehabilitate them?

I come to horror films from a literary perspective, such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Daphne du Maurier's The Birds. I'm part of a growing movement of female horror directors called "feminist response horror." It is unabashedly feminist. The film industry, however, is very male. I would love to change that.

Where is the B.C. film industry going? Is it screwed?

I don't think it's all doom and gloom. I think that the tax credit that Ontario is offering [25 percent of production costs] is not sustainable. Certainly it's not enough of a draw for me. Filmmaking in B.C. is our crown jewel in many ways, and if the government remembers that we'll be okay.

Which true-crime cases influenced Evangeline?

Robert Pickton, and the fact that 65 women went missing in a three-square-block radius, and people kept saying that there wasn't a serial killer. Also B.C.'s Highway of Tears; that haunts me-women disappearing off the face of the earth. The premise of Evangeline is that women go missing-it's systemic.

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