The Mean One Review

PLOT: A parody of the classic Dr. Seuss story How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, The Mean One imagines what it would have been like if the Grinch was a bloodthirsty killer.

REVIEW: Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel first told the world How the Grinch Stole Christmas back in 1957, when the story – written in rhymed verse – was published as a book and also in the pages of Redbook magazine. That tale has been a beloved classic for sixty-five years now, and has received multiple adaptations over the decades, including an animated TV movie that was narrated by Boris Karloff, a 2000 live-action film starring Jim Carrey as the Grinch, a computer animated film with Benedict Cumberbatch voicing the Grinch, and a popular musical. They all keep the same basic story intact: a furry green fellow called the Grinch lives in a cave overlooking the town of Whoville, and becomes deeply annoyed with the town’s Christmas celebrations. So he sets out to “steal Christmas” by invading the town while everyone’s asleep and taking all of the decorations, presents, and even the food for their holiday feast. Along the way he has an encounter with a little girl named Cindy Lou Who, and eventually realizes Christmas is more than the things he has stolen. A realization that makes his heart grow three sizes bigger. But with their horror comedy The Mean One, director Steven LaMorte and screenwriters Flip and Finn Kobler have decided to put a bloody twist on the familiar story.

Lately, genre filmmakers have been taking advantage of classic children’s stories lapsing into the public domain to develop horror movies featuring the likes of Winnie-the-Pooh, Peter Pan, and Bambi. The Mean One is not one of those cases, because How the Grinch Stole Christmas is not public domain. The filmmakers get around that inconvenience by describing The Mean One as a parody and not using any of the exact names from the original story. The furry green creature that lives in a mountain cave is never called the Grinch, just the mean one. (But viewers know who the mean one is because of the song from the animated TV movie, “You’re a mean one, Mister Grinch.”) The town isn’t Whoville, it’s Newville, and Cindy Lou Who is referred to as Cindy You-Know-Who. Since the movie is being sold as a parody, I expected LaMorte and the Koblers to play up the comedy even more than they did, I thought this would be going way over-the-top… but The Mean One is actually a rather low-key movie for the most part, eventually wearing out its welcome and becoming dull.

The Mean One review

There are two things about this movie that really do stand out as impressive. One is the makeup for the Mean One that was provided by Tatjana Bluchel and is reminiscent of Jim Carrey’s Grinch in the 2000 film. The other impressive element is the performance of David Howard Thornton as the Mean One – and it makes sense that Thornton would have Grinch skills, as he was in the cast of the How the Grinch Stole Christmas stage musical (playing Grandpa Who) for five national tours. The disappointment here is that the Mean One does not speak, despite the fact that the Grinch could always speak in the classic story and other adaptations. So Thornton’s performance is entirely physical, much like his performance as Art the Clown in the Terrifier movies.

The story begins on the night we know from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, with the encounter between the Mean One and Cindy… but this time the encounter goes horribly wrong, ending with the Mean One accidentally killing Cindy’s mother. Years later, an adult Cindy (played by Krystle Martin) and her father Lou (Flip Kobler) return to Newville for the holidays so Cindy can try to overcome her trauma as they put their family home, the home where Cindy’s mother died, on the market. They find that the people of Newville no longer openly celebrate Christmas – and they soon figure out why. If anyone dares to decorate in Newville, or if, for example, a party bus full of people dressed as Santa comes through town, the Mean One will seek out these celebrators of Christmas and murder them. With cartoony CGI blood splashing across the screen.

Sheriff Hooper (Erik Baker) and Mayor McBean (Amy Schumacher) are no help to Cindy when her father is killed by the Mean One, but as she sets out on a mission of revenge she does get some assistance from her love interest, Jewish police officer Burke (Chase Mullins), and Doc Zeus (John Bigham), an old man whose wife was killed by the Mean One some time earlier.

The Mean One review

For a movie about a killer Grinch, The Mean One is never quite as amusing, exciting, or entertaining as it should have been. The best scene is the Santa massacre, and there’s still almost an hour of movie left after that comes and goes. The movie is also quite unpleasant to look at most of the time. It was clearly made on a very limited budget, but I’ve seen plenty of micro-budget movies that look better than this one. Choices were made in post-production that caused a movie that already had low production value to look even worse. It sort of feels like a mixture of the cheap Christmas romance movies that fill the airwaves at the end of the year and any random creature feature you might catch on Syfy. But cheaper.

The Mean One is worth at least one viewing simply because it offers the chance to see the Grinch go on a bloody rampage. It’s not the killer Grinch movie we deserved, but it’s the one we got, so we might as well get as much enjoyment as we can out of it.

The Mean One is getting a nationwide theatrical release through Regal Cinemas on December 9th, with special advance screenings on the evening of the 8th.

The new episode of the Best Horror Party Movies looks at the Grinch-inspired horror film The Mean One, starring David Howard Thornton

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Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.