The holiday horror season kicks off early with the much-anticipated Dr. Seuss parody “The Mean One” starring “Terrifier” talent Thornton.
Dashing right over Halloween and into Christmas horror comes The Mean One, a slasher movie with the killer being none other than the Grinch himself.
Having a slasher movie set in the world of Dr. Seuss’ Christmas classic is an idea so unique it is a surprise that it has not been done before. Of course, it is completely unauthorized and not endorsed by Seuss’ estate.
Director Steven LaMorte blends Dr. Seuss, the 2000 version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Hallmark movie aesthetic, and holiday bloodletting in a film that is more fun and clever than a movie about a killer grinch has any right to be.
Cindy (Krystle Martin) has come back to Newville with her father, Lou (Flip Kobler), after witnessing her mother’s murder as a child by a green, Santa suit-wearing assailant.
Newville is totally bereft of any Christmas decorations despite the holiday being so close. Cindy is warned by the local authorities that any holiday merry-making is frowned upon. Lou bucks against the system, and soon, they are decorating their house for the season in a scene so overly saccharine and nauseating as any of those in a holiday Hallmark movie. But that’s when the murders start.
Cindy is once again trying to get the authorities to believe her that there is a killer on the loose. With town-drunk Doc Zeus (John Bigham) and smitten Detective Burke (Chase Mullins), they set about to discover who or what is targeting Newville.
Of course, in a film like this, characters and story take a backseat; you want to see the mean green one rack up as high a body count in as many holiday-themed ways as possible in 90 minutes, and viewers should be satisfied in this area.
He cuts quite a swath through the small number of holiday revelers in Newville.
The biggest draw for me was seeing David Howard Thornton of Terrifier fame take on a similar role as the non-talking Mean One.
Thornton seems to be in his element as an actor who can purvey malice and violence with just his body movements and facial expressions, even though they are largely buried under makeup.
He is an actor who has already demonstrated what he can do without dialogue and is sure to demonstrate more ability as his roles in the genre increase.
Krystle Martin as Cindy has great fun with the material, and she transforms from shell-shocked victim to Linda Hamilton-esque avenger through the classic training montage, of course. Meanwhile, Chase Mullins couldn’t have played his part more perfectly; it legitimately seems his character was plucked from a Hallmark Christmas movie.
Having a movie know what it is and not striving to be any more than that will only satisfy the people who are giving their time and money to watch a killer Grinch movie. This is a movie for holiday parties with friends, pizza, and beer.
Writers Finn and Flip Kobler and Steve LaMorte’s use of narrator throughout is a fun flip on the Boris Karloff narration of the 1966 version, and there are enough clever inside jokes to keep eagle-eyed viewers interested, such as the town drunk drinking a bottle of “Geisel” whiskey (Geisle being Dr. Seuss’ actual surname.)
The Mean One does almost everything it sets out to do.
With an antagonist being a killer Grinch, the bar is not exactly set high. But it should keep viewers looking for something fun and new to watch this holiday season engaged.
It doesn’t reach as high as Michael Dougherty’s Krampus but does sit well next to other guilty holiday favorites such as Jack Frost, Santa’s Slay, and the penultimate guilty Christmas pleasure Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2.
As much fun as The Mean One is, it does have a few setbacks, most likely due to budgetary constraints.
The wide shots of the town of Newville with the towering mountain where the Grinch lives are impressive CGI shots for a movie of this caliber, but during the close-ups with the characters on the actual mountain, there is a strange sense of displacement due to the fact that the mountainside is full of natural light and looks more like a desert landscape than the windswept, dark and cold home of the grinch that we expect.
Also, too many of the Grinch attacks are in full light, like in the middle of the day bright sunlight. The first time we see the Grinch, the full blazing sun is right behind him; you would expect the Grinch to be more of a night creature.
In the movie’s most blood-soaked moment, he attacks a group of drunken Santas at a diner in the middle of the day.
The other big detraction is the overuse of digital blood splatter. This never looks good and always stands out in a negative way. When you pay your time or money to sit down and watch a movie about a killer Grinch on the loose, you know what you want to see, and it’s carnage. Thus, when big kill set pieces are highly digitized, you feel cheated. The use of digital blood effects in what is essentially a slasher movie is a huge turnoff.
All that aside, The Mean One is a lot of fun for those who are looking for something not-so-serious this holiday season and those who want to turn their mind off and be entertained for an hour and a half by a Grinch cutting down people.
It is entertaining and witty enough for even the most jaded of holiday horror fans.
You get exactly what you want with this one, nothing less, but you do end up getting a little more with the clever writing and the presence of Thornton as the Grinch, gleefully slicing his way through the holiday season.