[Review] If you watch one film this Halloween, it should be the surprisingly profound "President Evil"
(By Matt Konopka) Released in 1978, John Carpenter’s Halloween changed horror in America forever. The film spawned various sequels, remakes, requels, action figures, mugs with Michael Myers face on them, and so on. It also inspired countless copycats, such as Friday the 13th, which led to the slasher film craze. Yet, despite all of that, I have never, in the four decades since the original film released, seen a spoof of Halloween that is as outrageous yet somehow profoundly important as President Evil…
…Directed by Richard Lowry (Apocalypse Rising) and written by Lowry and Gregory P. Wolk (Apocalypse Rising), President Evil is a hilariously ridiculous spoof of Halloween in which a deranged killer named David (Ryan Quinn Adams), dresses up as the POTUS and stalks a trio of young women days before the November mid-term elections, aka, “the night he tried to silence voters”.
Without a doubt, President Evil is by far the most entertaining FUCK TRUMP messaging to hit your screens to this point, at least for horror fans. I’ll get into how wonderfully Lowry tackles political commentary in a moment, but for those who aren’t as into horror with a message, it should be mentioned that President Evil also happens to be the best spoof of Michael Myers I’ve ever seen. The film opens not just as an anti-Trump middle finger, but as a love letter to horror fans. The opening credits perfectly capture the classic feeling of Carpenter’s original Halloween, with nostalgic orange text, and an ugly Trump head replacing a scary pumpkin. Spoiler: The Trump head is scarier. Composer Robert Douglas does a standout job with the music, a redux of Carpenter’s theme that sounds similar, but is entirely its own beast. President Evil also follows nearly the exact same structure as Halloween, with minor tweaks here and there that allow nods to other beloved horror films such as Psycho, The Omen, Aliens, Suspiria, and even a reference to the Resident Evil games which had me dying, and also convinced me the title is absolutely inspired by that franchise.
But this isn’t your conservative relative’s Halloween. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that if you’re a Trump supporter, President Evil is not the film for you. Lowry and Wolk litter clever jokes against the sitting president all throughout, with nods like Scorchy Daniels (Johanna Rae), the Russian investigation-including a character named Sheriff Mueller (Jose Rosete)-Trump’s grammatically horrifying tweets, and that time he stared directly into an eclipse without protective glasses, and oh so much more. In many ways, this is the Halloween spoof that 2018 needs. By poking fun at the president and painting him in a less than intelligent manner (and let’s be honest, he does it to himself), President Evil, if only for the brief 80-minute runtime, allows audiences to laugh at the frustrations that many of us have felt with the POTUS over these last couple of years. It’s like a group therapy session, where for once, we’re all in on the joke. But President Evil goes way beyond taking swings at the low hanging fruit as most spoofs would elect to do. President Evil actually has something to say about the current state of America.
It all begins with our cast, which is a far cry from the group of dumb, horny, WHITE teenagers in Halloween. Instead, those three are replaced by strong, intelligent minorities in Lana (Sitara Attaie), Blanca (Lys Perez), and Medjine (Amber Boone), a Muslim, Mexican, and Haitian, respectively. These girls aren’t your average slasher victims. While the cast of Halloween was worried about things like sex, boys, and more sex, these three have bigger issues on their mind, such as deportation, protesting for their rights, voting, and so on. All three are confident, take no shit badasses, with Lana leading the charge as our Laurie Strode replacement in a powerful performance that makes Attaie a force to be reckoned with. Lowry and Wolk deserve heaps of praise for not just giving women three tough girls to root for, but for providing positive messages for minorities. I could go on and on about the sort of fist-pump moments sprinkled over the script, but one that really stands out is Lana telling a young boy, Pepe (Jacob Jorgensen), to not listen when kids call him a rapist because he’s Mexican, and that one day, in America, he can grow up to be president and fight for change. I was completely caught off guard by just how serious and profound President Evil could be at times. These sorts of moments are not rare, and some fans may find that they take away from all the fun we’re having. Don’t get me wrong, scenes like this do stall the generally over-the-top tone, and often took me out of the film momentarily, but each is so powerful, so important, that I found myself loving this movie because it doesn’t just want you to have a good time, it wants you to have a good time while firing you up to stand against all the hate and monsters in this world. Sure, its propaganda, but is that really a bad thing if its encouraging you to do the right thing?
Speaking of the monsters, David is the epitome of hatred in America. Halloween fans will love seeing various shots of Michael Myers recreated with David, and Trump haters will appreciate just how much more of a bumbling idiot this guy is than Michael. But don’t let the buffoonery fool you. David may have the mental capacity of an orange (see what I did there?), but he may also be one of this year’s most frightening horror villains. There is something uniquely disturbing about a man wearing a Donald Trump costume stabbing minorities with a butcher knife that has the American flag painted on the blade. There is nothing subtle about what the filmmakers are trying to say here. These are American citizens, but the hatred of America is killing them. There are groups of people out there that hate minorities simply because they are not white, and this knife which David uses really stabs that point home. Yes, this is an absurd Halloween spoof, but it’s also the scariest kind of horror, because it is REAL. People ARE dying at the hands of far right-win terrorists, all because the color of their skin and their religion. The original Halloween had a marathon of horror films playing in the background, but Lowry substitutes those with a speech from Donald Trump, which arguably creates a more sinister tone. I can think of few things more gut-wrenching than watching a Donald Trump-costumed madman slicing up a transgender person (Vinn Sander) with an American flag knife while Trump rambles on in the background about how transgender people are “freaks”. That being said, most of the kills remain true to Halloween, going for style and creativity instead of gratuitous bloodshed, which is not often a choice you see made with low-budget spoof films, but one that would make Carpenter proud in this case.
President Evil is a masterwork of social commentary, yet at the same time, a gleeful celebration of horror, just in time for Halloween AND the mid-term elections coming up. Forced plot points used to separate characters, jokes that don’t always land, and an uneven tone keep President Evil out of reach of perfection. Yet for those frustrated with the state of America and looking for a good time, as well as some much-needed catharsis in watching a Trump-mask wearing racist get the shit beat out of him, President Evil is a MUST WATCH, one that I found shockingly inspiring. Richard Lowry is a name to be watched moving forward. President Evil has every chance of claiming cult status as the horror film to watch during every election season. Do yourself a favor by checking out this film immediately, and don’t forget to vote!
President Evil is now available on Amazon Prime.
By Matt Konopka