The Mean One is THE Grinch parody that has had us all curious for a few months. We were promised David Howard Thornton (Art the Clown of Terrifier and Terrifier 2) causing Christmas chaos as the green menace, one of Dr. Seuss’ most popular characters. However, The Mean One is also an ultra-independent (and completely unauthorized) parody of Hallmark / Lifetime holiday films. In theory, this sweetens the pot because the film is parodying two very different things in a bloody (and snowy) mash-up.
The movie opens with a familiar version of the story. Cindy sees The Mean One stealing and connects with him, which in turn causes him to be a better person…er, creature. Then The Narrator rewinds and gives us the real story. We see Cindy and The Mean One make this connection just before Cindy’s mom walks in and loses it at the sight of a green thing with a bag of her belongings. Things escalate, and Cindy’s mom is accidentally killed. This leads Cindy to yell at her new friend. No one in town believes the little tyke about a green guy dressed as Santa breaking in and murdering her mom. Cindy has a lifetime of therapy and returns to Newville as an adult to sell the family home. This is when she finds out she has unfinished business with The Green One.
The Thrills, The Kills, And The Chills
Because The Mean One feels like an 80s B-horror movie spoof and a Hallmark movie had a comedy baby, I was curious about the kills. I also know that while I have yet to see either Terrifier movie at the time of writing this, Thornton’s Art the Clown has messed a lot of my friends up. So, I was trying to manage my expectations but couldn’t help but hope for some candy-coated mayhem. The movie delivers…sort of.
We have some really cool kills, but we cut away before seeing the violence. We might never know if that was done for budgetary reasons or Hallmark sensibilities. However, it was sad being denied the joy of seeing what The Mean One was doing to get so many heads to roll. It also takes some of the merriment from the candy cane beatdown he delivers to the members of the Santa Con.
Another issue with the violence is that a lot of the blood looks like CGI. If you are going to give me a scene of kitchen deaths, I want to see it rain practical blood. Don’t bother going there if you are not ready to grab a bucket and a mop. You are fudging with some wet IP and need to act accordingly.
Not being a Hallmark girl, I mostly leaned in during my horror beats, even though most were silly. The most iconic moment is when we finally get the reveal of The Mean One. Until then, we had only seen a hand, a silhouette, and even a police sketch. However, when we see his full face and the promise of violence, my own heart grew two sizes.
Another thing that made my horror-loving, anti-holiday heart happy was the dark versions of Christmas songs used in the film. There is a creepy Jingle Bells for a cave moment. There is a Carol Of The Bells cover that sounds like Mannheim Steamroller’s version on steroids that plays during adult Cindy’s (played by Krystle Martin) montage. Because if you are going to kill The Mean One, you need a training montage and a theme song.
Playing For Laughs
Parody is difficult because the best comedy comes from not getting caught being funny. However, a parody walks in having to fail that rule. Because of this, The Mean One has to throw all the spaghetti at the wall by design. I often hate this, but I actually found more laughs than I thought I would. The Narrator (voiced by Christopher Sanders) almost always got a giggle out of me, even if the bit he was commenting on wasn’t that funny. Sanders’ line delivery, and that feeling of having someone else watching over this ridiculousness, is one of the hidden gems of the movie.
Because Cindy is a Hallmark protagonist in a horror world, her character has moments that made me laugh out loud. Martin’s embodiment of these two drastically different worlds highlighted the ridiculousness at every turn. I also was here for the physical comedy, and some research showed that she is a stunt performer. This explains how she can make a commando roll a whole moment. Everything that happens once she decides to open a Christmas beatdown on The Mean One is so silly that you have to chuckle. The holiday arsenal of weapons at her disposal after she summons him by plugging in holiday lights is too ridiculous and cute.
There are other funny moments caused by how high the stakes are for something so silly. Honestly, this is not the worst movie I have seen this year. It is also not the worst movie in the holiday horror canon. It begins to feel like an SNL sketch that we have returned to too many times before, somewhere around that forty-minute mark. This sucks because it is surprisingly not awful and is a very silly, chaotic send-up of many questionable sub-genres.
While The Mean One will not be stealing a spot on your award season predictions and is probably not something with a high rewatch value, it is slightly more fun than we expected. In this decade, that is the kind of surprise I can definitely support. You can watch The Mean One in theaters December 9.