The Mean One review: An appalling, hilarious Grinch parody

David Howard Thornton in The Mean OneAtlas Film Distribution

The Mean One, a gleefully “unauthorized” horror parody of The Grinch, is deliriously, hilariously appalling. It’s the worst movie you’ll see this year, and you’ll chuckle all the way.

Dr. Seuss has never been sacred; Mike Myers infamously bastardized The Cat in the Hat with his acid-trip, traumatizing portrayal of the top-hatted feline. “I’ll get you, and it’ll look like a bloody accident.”

However, The Mean One falls under the umbrella of a new horror trend: transforming beloved family IP into savage slashers, whether it’s Winnie the Pooh or Peter Pan, all in service of public domain freedom or, in this case, laying waste to the legacy of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

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It’s funny, just not always funny ha-ha. Save for an exceptional turn from David Howard Thornton, the frightening, clowning mime at the heart of the Terrifier movies, this is a movie that happily indulges in its own shoddiness, and you’re a schmuck if you’re expecting anything more.

The Mean One turns The Grinch into a killer

“Remember the story of Cindy-You-Know-Who. When her Christmas was stolen, she knew what to do. She killed him with kindness and surprisiest of surprises. That one simple kiss made his heart grow three sizes. They loved their Christmas those folks down in town, but what if I said that’s not how it went down,” purrs the opening, Seussian narration from Christopher Sanders.

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As this isn’t a direct adaptation of The Grinch, treat it as a parallel universe adaptation (as one character even points out): it isn’t Whoville, it’s Newville; it’s not Mayor Maywho, it’s Mayor McBean; and a mountain still hangs over the town, but it’s not Mount Crumpet.

Above all else, this Grinch isn’t interested in stealing presents – he wants to butcher, skewer, blend, batter, and eat anyone who celebrates the holidays. Cindy may have gave him a present, but the monster still murdered her mother, and when she returns to the town 20 years later, the “Christmas Killer” strikes again.

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Rock-bottom budget fun

There’s low-budget, then there’s the shallow well The Mean One has drank from. It’s shot with the blind ferocity of a corny anti-piracy ad; constantly oversaturated, hammy, and goofy to the extremes. The CGI is reminiscent of the 1998 Art Attack PC game – this reference is incredibly niche but transportive for those who know – with cartoonish spurts of blood filling the screen with each head-stomping, chest-churning killing. And then there’s the glorious use of Photoshop and stock footage; blotchy, shameless, and always funny – look out for the fish.

David Howard Thornton in The Mean OneAtlas Film Distribution

It’s obvious where all the money has gone: the intricate, impressive design of the Mean One himself, brought to life by Thornton in a mischievous, energetic turn. He prances, wiggles, and grins just as you’d expect, but much like Art the Clown, there’s a constant undercurrent of teeth-gnashing menace. When he lets loose, he goes berserk, walloping and slicing with a fierceness few artists can replicate.

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Krystle Martin, who plays grown-up Cindy, isn’t a very good actor – nobody in the movie is. That said, as a physical performer, she’s game and formidable. Her highlight reel would be made up of the montage aping Home Alone and Rocky 4, and every time she wakes up screaming from a nightmare… which happens a lot.

Directed by Steven LaMorte and written by Flip Kobler and Finn Kobler, one has to wonder how they’re getting away with it. Sure, the movie never uses the language of the original text, but it’s incredibly blatant; at one point, they clearly use a traced drawing of Jim Carrey’s Grinch with his furry hands on his hips. This free-wheeling approach does keep the film’s spirit alive, even if it’s maintaining a general sense of bafflement.

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The Mean One review score: 2/5

It almost feels cruel to treat The Mean One with any bitterness: it’s 90 minutes long, brazenly cheap, each beat is more ridiculous than the last, and with a gnarly, nasty Grinch that’s somewhere between Bigfoot and Ghostface, those already sold on the movie are bound to have fun. You may snarl with a sneer, but they’ll parle with a cheer.

The Mean One is hitting cinemas nationwide on December 9. You can find out more about where to watch the movie here.