The Mean One Is My New Christmas Guilty Pleasure

It’s the second most wonderful time of the year (the first being Halloween season, of course), so naturally, all I want to do is sit back, relax, and watch some Christmas horror movies. And so far, this holiday season has been pretty good to me. Last week, I saw the cool killer Santa Claus film Violent Night, and this week, I got to check out the fun How the Grinch Stole Christmas! slasher spoof The Mean One.

The Mean One was directed by Steven LaMorte, and it stars David Howard Thornton, Krystle Martin, and Chase Mullins. It starts by recounting a revised version of the end of the Dr. Seuss Christmas classic it’s based on, but then it flips the script on us and tells us that the tale we know isn’t what really happened. Rather, the Grinch actually killed Cindy You-Know-Who’s (this spoof is unauthorized, so it can’t actually use the names from the book) mother, so the story didn’t end quite as happily as we all thought.

Then, we fast forward 20 years, and Cindy goes back to Newville, the town where that infamous murder occurred, with her father. However, soon after they arrive, the titular meanie returns and goes on another deadly rampage, prompting Cindy to take justice into her own hands.

For about the first 10 or 15 minutes, The Mean One is pretty much entirely about Cindy and her father, and it’s surprisingly good. While the production values aren’t great, the chemistry between the two main characters is excellent. In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought that these actors really were family. They’re just an absolute joy to watch whenever they’re on screen together, so they make it super easy to buy into this story right from the get-go.

The evil Grinch

But that all changes really abruptly, and after the 15-minute mark or so, the movie quickly starts to fall more in line with what I expected it to be. For example, Cindy’s father recedes into the background, and the movie begins to focus more on a few other characters who take his place. Now, I understand why the filmmakers took that particular narrative route, but I think it was a big mistake. These other characters aren’t nearly as likable as Cindy’s father, so they keep the film from reaching its full potential.

What’s more, the rest of The Mean One also feels a bit too much like a daytime soap opera. In fact, pretty much everything about this movie, from the dialogue to the acting to the cinematography, just has that vibe. There are even a few transitions that seem almost like they were designed to make room for commercial breaks, so a small part of me kind of thought this was originally intended as a TV movie (although I don’t think it was).

All that being said, I still had a really good time with the film. Yes, it has a whole bunch of problems, and it’s definitely not going to win any awards for top-notch filmmaking, but the evil Grinch is just so damn fun that none of those problems mattered to me. For starters, he’s brought to life by David Howard Thornton, the guy who plays Art the Clown in the Terrifier franchise, and he’s just as good as you’d expect.

He moves in the same borderline-cartoonish way Art the Clown moves, and it works brilliantly here. This is exactly what I’d expect from a slasher version of a Dr. Seuss character, and when he kills people, it’s a thing of beauty. Admittedly, The Mean One isn’t anywhere near as gory as the Terrifier franchise, so you don’t get to see all the grisly details of the Grinch’s handiwork. But for me, what the movie showed was more than enough to get me on board with this villain, so I just ate up every second of his screen time.

Someone with bows in their eyes

On top of that, the film also does a really good job of honoring the original Dr. Seuss story in a way that’s both nostalgic and new. For example, since it can’t use the names from the book, it can’t actually call its villain the Grinch, and there’s one scene where it avoids using that name in a really hilarious way.

More importantly, The Mean One also makes the character’s hatred of Christmas an essential part of the story, and I really appreciated that. See, going into this movie, I thought it was going to be a by-the-numbers slasher that just happened to use the Grinch as its killer, but there’s actually more to it than that. This Grinch genuinely hates Christmas, and that intense loathing is an integral part of both his identity and his killing spree.

Last but not least, I have to mention the film’s ending. Not only is there a really cool final battle between Cindy and the Grinch, but the way that fight ends is surprisingly touching. I’m obviously not going to spoil what happens, but I will say that it injects some genuine heart and humanity into the story, and that makes it feel like a real Christmas movie, not just a slasher that happens to take place around the holidays.

So at the end of the day, I’m happy to say that I heartily recommend The Mean One. Granted, if the idea of a Dr. Seuss slasher parody doesn’t sound exciting to you, you’re probably not going to like it, but if this is the kind of thing you’d enjoy, I think you’re going to like this film. It has a really fun villain who single-handedly elevates this otherwise mediocre movie into a legit guilty pleasure, so if you’re in the mood to turn your brain off and just watch some fun Christmas killings, it will definitely scratch that itch.

The Mean One hits select theaters on December 9.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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