The Mean One
"The Mean One" is a film that begs to be something perfect but never lives up to the promise of its premise.
There is so much potential in "The Mean One" that it makes your fingernails ache. The premise is enough to salivate horror parody fans, but the film can't decide what it wants to be - a full-on parody or a straight-up horror film. And that inability to determine its identity keeps "The Mean One" from becoming what it could be.
Cindy You-Know-Who (Krystle Martin) is returning to her hometown of Newville with her father, Lou (Flip Kobler), after being gone for two decades to sell the family home. You see, 20 years ago, young Cindy encountered a green-furred Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, and at first, all was well, but when her mother (Tina Van Berk) found him in their home, she tried to protect her child and during the ensuing struggle falls and dies. When Cindy tells the police about the name in the suit, they think it's the product of a child's overactive imagination and put no stock in it, allowing the killing to roam the nearby mountainside.
Since that night, the town of Newville hasn't celebrated Christmas as it calls to the beast to commit his ghastly deeds. So, when Cindy and Lou breeze into town with antlers and a red nose on their car, Detective Burke (Chase Mullins) informs them that all decorations are against the law and the town doesn't openly celebrate the holiday. Burke is smitten with Cindy and will spend the rest of the film pining for her, giving us a romantic story no one wants or needs. Trust me.
Once father and daughter are in their house, Cindy's past trauma keeps her on edge, but Daddy Lou decides it's a good idea to unpack the Christmas decor and cover the house in holiday cheer, which is a bad idea. While taking out the trash, Cindy is locked out of the house and then watches as the monster from her children slaughters her father.
The Sheriff (Erik Baker) is still unwilling to believe her claims of the killer's identity and the town's super upbeat mayor (Amy Schumacher) is intent on leaving the past in the past and building a brighter tomorrow for Newville. They both want nothing more than for Cindy to be out of their hair. But loverboy Burke begins believing Cindy and heads to the mountains to see what he can dig up.
The only other person in town who believes Cindy's claim is the town drunk Doc (John Bigham). He believes her because the beast killed his wife several years ago and he's spent every day since trying to locate and destroy the beast. And when Cindy has one more nightmare where Burke is killed, her mission aligns with Doc's and she goes from the hunted to the hunter.
We get a mega-sized training montage as Cindy gears up to face her tormentor. As Cindy and the beast's inevitable encounter inches closer, Burke finds that the beast might not be the only monster in town.
In the climactic showdown, Cindy and the beast finally confront each other in an epic battle that holds nothing back. Cindy wields an array of unconventional weapons, from candy-striped shotguns to explosive Christmas tree bulbs, and her bag of tricks is seemingly endless. As the battle rages on, it's ultimately revealed the specter of her childhood requires something no one can imagine.
"The Mean One" is a film that begs to be something perfect but never lives up to the promise of its premise. The filmmakers never fully commit one way or the other - pure horror or spoof and what we get is an uneven film that flip-flops in no man's land. Couple that with some dodgy digital special effects, and it's a recipe for disappointment. Give him fake real blood, or give me nothing. Digital blood looks like lazy filmmaking.
One area the filmmakers excel at is skirting around using anything directly related to the Grinch; these moments prove to be some of the funniest of the film. At one point in the bar, as Doc is ready to say Grinch, the bartender calls out for Finch and it's great. There are also a few Easter eggs throughout referencing other Dr. Seuss stories such as a red and blue fish in a bowl at the hospital and the name of Doc's favorite whiskey being Dr. Seuss's actual last name - Geisel.
The absolute star of the show is David Howard Thorton, who plays The Mean One. His performance is so fun to watch. I wish they'd made a pure horror movie and let him run wild. I would love to see what he could do with that character with no holds barred. Bigham also shines as Doc and brings a little humanity to the film.
"The Mean One" offers an interesting premise of taking a familiar childhood tale and twisting it beyond recognition, but doesn't do enough to make it memorable.