It appears the horror genre has turned a new page. Adapting children’s books into something scary is all the rage!...
…First it was Winnie the Pooh. Now director Steven LaMorte brings us the meanest of Whos. An adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” story, The Mean One is a twisted take more than three times as gory.
Written by Finn and Flip Kobler, this version begins two months after October. During one tragic Christmas Eve, Cindy’s (Krystle Martin) mother is forced to leave. Not by choice or to a new place, but by a nail to the face. Caused by this tale’s version of the Grinch (David Howard Thornton), little Cindy turns on him in a pinch. Years later, the town of Newville no longer indulges in holiday cheer. Not with The Mean One showering them in fear. All grown up, Cindy sets out to stop The Christmas Killer. Death will be the only gift in this un-merry thriller.
Somewhere between Michael Cooney’s Jack Frost and a Lifetime movie, The Mean One isn’t meant for anyone snooty. The editing is choppy. The camerawork, sloppy. Sharknado-level CGI had this reviewer wanting to cry. Surely, the low production value will send some of you on the run. But who cares when LaMorte fills this cinematic stocking with humor and fun?
Christopher Sanders narrates the film with storybook rhymes, his voice emanating devilish glee at all times. Roaming the streets of this dreary town are characters who will turn that frown upside down. From a sweet, dopey cop named Burke (Chase Mullins) to a self-obsessed mayor (Amy Schumacher) who is a next-level jerk, The Mean One’s cast are certainly a perk. Leading the show is Krystle Martin, who transforms Cindy into a warrior Spartan. This isn’t Dr. Seuss’ sweet little girl. The Mean One’s Cindy is out for the kill. Part Rocky Balboa. Part Sarah Connor. She even gets a training montage on a mission to defend her honor. You can’t take these characters too seriously. The cast takes them all to eleven fearlessly.
Surprising none, the true star here is The Mean One. Whenever the film begins to grow tired, David Howard Thornton enters with an energy that’s wired. He scampers. He creeps. He goes absolutely ballistic on these peeps. Everything fans loved about Terrifier’s Art, Thornton translates to this maniacal part. The Mean One is hairy. He’s scary. Thornton’s performance is quite extraordinary. With his sinister expressions and imposing frame, this is an actor at the top of his game.
For this Grinch, killing is a cinch. He’s like a shark in the snow on the prowl for Christmas joy. All who celebrate become his unwilling toy. Though the blood is mostly CG and the effects are sub-par, the creativity behind the deaths goes far. Eyeballs are poked. Heads are knocked off. Some kills are so ridiculous they warrant a scoff. LaMorte literally soaks the screen in red, so many end up dead. Tears of laughter filled my eyes when The Mean One slaughtered a bunch of Santa bro guys.
The Mean One is pure camp, of that there’s no doubt. Having a good time is what this movie’s all about. This script incorporates humor with tongue all the way through cheek. LaMorte’s film is corny lunacy at its peak. We’re talking ornament grenades. Candy-cane colored guns. A Santa’s sack worth of groan-inducing puns. Scene after scene of Dr. Seuss references. This movie is for those with silly preferences. Some jokes are defective. It’s not all effective. Still, I quite enjoyed LaMorte’s playful take. An entertaining film he did make.
Of course, this criticism isn’t without claws. The Mean One certainly has its flaws. It’s easy for the film’s cheer to be rendered null when the grey color palette is so visually dull. And though the characters are endearing, a lack of urgency has them meandering. Within this story is a surprisingly heartfelt soul. But on a technical level, it deserves a lump of coal. Silly antics offer plenty to cheer. Outside of that, there isn’t much to love, I fear.
If you’re seeking goofy nonsense and cheap gore, The Mean One has plenty of that in store. It may be hard to follow at times, or as cheesy as these rhymes. For the average filmgoer, that will be its demise. Look past that though, and there’s enough charm here to make your heart grow three times in size.
The Mean One brings bloody fun to theaters December 9th.
By Matt Konopka