Film reviews and more since 2009

The Mean One (2022) review

Dir. Steven LaMorte

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★★

The very idea of a slasher movie revolving around the Grinch should’ve been a slam-dunk. More surprising than it took this long to materialize — although it does find itself germane to the recent perversion of Winnie the Pooh in a horror film which turned him and Piglet into cold-blooded killers — is that Steven LaMorte’s The Mean One takes the concept and does very little to make it interesting. Similar to Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, this is a misguided creative attempt that was seemingly conceived under the belief that a sentence-long idea could sustain an entire movie.

An uneven mix of Hallmark Christmas movie sentiment and low-budget horror brutality, The Mean One revolves around Cindy You-Know-Who (Krystle Martin), who lives in the town of Newville — the film’s status as “unauthorized” means character names and places from Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas cannot be used. As a young girl, Cindy witnessed a green-skinned monster (David Howard Thompson of Terrifier fame) dressed as Santa Claus murder her mother. It’s been 20 years since that tragedy, and upon Cindy’s return to Newville, she realizes that the monster still terrorizes anyone who dares hang a strand of Christmas lights.

In response, local law enforcement and Newville’s corrupt mayor (Amy Schumacher) have outlawed all things Christmas in order to keep the monster, later referred to as “The Mean One,” at bay. When Cindy and her father (co-writer Flip Kobler) decorate their house for Christmas in retaliation, the Gr- err… “The Mean One” reemerges and stabs his eyes out. Cindy implores the sheriff (Erik Baker) to look into the attacks, but he’s always armed with some type of excuse, forcing Cindy into full vigilante-mode to stop the creature herself.

The most curious creative choice in The Mean One is its almost complete absence of humor, outside of some Seussical narration provided by career voice actor Chris Sanders. Screenwriters Flip and Finn Kobler play this ridiculous premise with complete conviction, complete with run-of-the-mill character types and what I can only deem a deliberate suppression of fun. While watching the film, I went back and forth with myself over whether or not I wanted Thompson’s murderous Grinch to talk. I doubt the dialog he would’ve likely been fed would’ve rivaled that of, say, Chucky, but the occasional quip might’ve gifted The Mean One something it sorely lacks: a personality.

If you’re going to go through the trouble of crafting a horror film with the Grinch as the killer and not have any fun with it, wouldn’t you have been better off making a completely different type of slasher?

The most memorable sequence in The Mean One is set at a diner, where a busload of drunken mall Santas storm through the door, harass the overworked waitress, and are subsequently hacked, bludgeoned, strangled, mauled, and gouged to bits by the Grinch. It reminded me of the strip-club scene in Santa’s Slay, where Bill Goldberg’s evil Santa Claus was permitted the opportunity to go completely feral and wreak hell for a few uninterrupted minutes. Thompson gleefully dances and prances while offing each Santa one-by-one, and up until this point, the Koblers’ script was so drearily lacking in energy that it needed this kind of spark.

However, even during the viciously bloody murders you’re hoping for, one element threatens to soil even those. LaMorte over-directs these slayings by employing several canted angles to capture the action. Maybe he thought he was adding directorial flare to the bloodshed. Instead, it’s a distracting addition that suggests LaMorte’s self-confidence with his presentation. There’s nothing wrong with shooting something straight-on; there’s no need to tilt the camera in the heat of the action.

The Mean One continues the disturbingly bleak trend of slashers based on beloved children’s properties. While, in theory, these films should be the basis for a bloody good time, two promising setups have given way for little except missed opportunities.

NOTE: The Mean One is available to rent on multiple platforms.

Starring: Krystle Martin, David Howard Thornton, Chase Mullins, Erik Baker, John Bigham, Flip Kobler, and Amy Schumacher. Directed by: Steven LaMorte.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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