‘President Evil’: Horror at the box office and ballot box
A Trump-mask-wearing slasher targets young women of color who are community organizers in the new film, "President Evil."

LOS ANGELES—Horror fiction is dominating the box office this fall, just as real political terror is dominating the nation. Halloween, a sequel to the original film about the iconic monster Michael Myers, has been on top since its October 19 debut and is well on its way to making over $120 million dollars. And as theater goers flock to see the fictional boogeyman, the country has been rocked by a number of acts of terror fueled by the hate, racism, anti-Semitism, and dangerous divisive political rhetoric pushed by the real-life boogeyman in the White House.

This may be the week of one of the spookiest days of the year, Halloween, but it is also the week before what is set to be a historic moment in United States history. The midterm election of November 6 is rushing toward us, striking fear into the hearts of many voters. The fate of the country hangs in the balance. The new horror film, President Evil, meshes the popularity of the Michael Myers franchise with actual terrors of the current political terrain, resulting in a movie that drives home the message that truth is definitely stranger than fiction.

Giant Meteor Films

From Giant Meteor Films, President Evil is a parody of John Carpenter’s horror masterpiece, Halloween. While villain Michael Myers was driven by some unknown entity of evil and malice, the masked killer in President Evil is seemingly driven by extreme right-wing politics and a drive to do away with people of marginalized communities. The film takes place days before the November midterm elections, as three young women of color, (Muslim, Mexican, and Haitian), are stalked by a deranged killer dressed as the current president of the United States. At just over one hour and twenty-one minutes, the movie takes viewers on a ride of horror movie callbacks, comedy, and a heavy mixture of on-the-nose social commentary that leaves no mystery as to which side of the political aisle the makers of the film stand on.

It’s obvious that the premise of Halloween is only used as the outline of the movie, as the Richard Lowly film, written by Gregory P. Wolk, then inserts symbolic characters and happenings that are focused more on current politics than the 1970s horror classic. Many of the characters are reflections of the political players we see today. Some are a bit more obvious, such as the doctor fashioned after Hillary Clinton, who tries to warn—to no avail—everyone about the dangers of the killer. There’s also another doctor, who is Russian, and clearly a stand-in for Vladimir Putin, who is in collusion, (get it? collusion?) with the masked killer.

Then there are characters that have a subtler symbolism, but may be even more poignant than the more famous references. Take the school bullies, for example, who harass the characters of color, throwing insults at them that sound eerily similar to talking points from a Donald Trump campaign rally. Then there’s the fact that the heroines of the film are three women of color who also happen to be neighborhood political organizers. They are written to be leaders in their community, battling backlash from the white male students who are often telling them to stay in “their place” while also being the main target of the Trump-mask-wearing killer. It’s hard not to see in this a reference to the current reality of an unprecedented number of women of color running for public office this year, emerging as political leaders, and demanding equality and recognition.

Interwoven in the subtle character symbolism is more in-your-face social commentary. If viewers are looking for a film where they can at times forget that it is at most a horror-genre political satire, then this isn’t a movie for them. Characters often go into long speeches addressing the hate and xenophobia promoted by the administration currently occupying the White House. Mention of the word “Republican” has certain children covering their ears in fear. One of the school lessons in the film details Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, and it’s possibly not to see some similarities to Donald Trump’s election to the presidency. Within a flashback, it’s shown that the masked killer himself was indoctrinated during the Reagan era; he wields a knife with the United States flag engraved on it. No, this is not a film for the political faint of heart.

Giant Meteor Films

Most horror movies frighten us by playing on our fears of what could be lurking in the dark. They tap into the imagination of the unseen and the unknown. That’s the standard formula. Yet, sometimes a horror movie comes along that holds up a mirror to the atrocities of our reality. The horror genre in general has been one filled with progressive themes that subvert the genre to comment on the socio-political. Sometimes it’s done with direct horror, such as Get Out, while at others it’s done with self-aware B-Movie campy flare that may seem lower in budget, but vaster in character and energy. President Evil is a mash-up of both.

The film leans on campy comedy in the beginning, but as the masked killer stalks and takes out victims one by one—while Donald Trump’s fictionalized State of the Union Address plays in the background—it becomes clear that, overall, the situation is no laughing matter. In the movie, there is a killer that is shown to be literally fueled by Trump’s words to kill people of color, women, and members of the LGBTQ community. That isn’t far from our current reality at all.

Just this past week, three real incidents of domestic terrorists killing or trying to kill in the name of hateful right-wing rhetoric have occurred. Gregory Bush, having failed to get into a Black church, instead went into a Kroger supermarket in Louisville, Kentucky and shot two Black customers to death. Pipe bombs made by Cesar Sayoc were showing up at the homes of Democrats, journalists, and others, who have been regular targets of President Trump’s twitter tirades. Then, on the morning of October 28, news of the worst anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history broke—the murder by Robert Bowers of 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. A line in the movie has one of the white supremacists saying, “God loves white people,” which is eerily in the same vein of Gregory Bush’s alleged words that “whites don’t kill whites.”

It’s in those moments of the movie—the killing and violence against those who belong to marginalized communities—where the film no longer feels campy and satiric, but all too real. Some jokes are still thrown in for levity, but it’s clear the filmmakers have a serious message they’re trying to convey.

Overall, President Evil is a fun time at the theater with some heavy political messaging thrown in. It probably won’t convince any who belong to Trump’s support base to switch sides, but the film may be therapeutic for those who have been pushing for an increase in voter turnout and devoting themselves to resistance in the face of the divisive political rhetoric that has dominated the airwaves since November 2016.

The film is being released on Halloween, but it’s clear that its eye is on the prize of displaying the real horror that may befall the nation if there isn’t some major change come November 6.

President Evil is currently available to watch on Amazon Prime and VOD.


CONTRIBUTOR

Chauncey K. Robinson
Chauncey K. Robinson

Chauncey K. Robinson believes that writing and media, in any capacity, should help to reflect the world around us, and be tools to help bring about progressive change. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has a strong belief in people power and strength. She is the Social Media Editor for People's World, along with being a journalist for the award winning publication. She’s a self professed geek and lover of pop culture. Chauncey seeks to make sure topics that affect working class people, peoples of color, and women are constantly in the spotlight and part of the discussion.

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