‘The Mean One’: Grinchy horror film’s entertainment value is two sizes too small

Gruesome Dr. Seuss knockoff has a lively star performance but ultimately becomes redundant and dull.

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David Howard Thornton plays the Christmas-hating monster with a familiar look in “The Mean One.”

Atlas Film Distribution

It’s officially a thing now to turn children’s fare into B-movie horror fare, whether it’s “The Banana Splits Movie” (2019) which featured Fleegle and Bingo et al. as robotic crazed killers, the upcoming “Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey,” “Peter Pan: Neverland Nightmare” and “Bambi: The Reckoning” — and this week’s “The Mean One,” a gruesome, cheerfully violent and unauthorized splatter-film take on “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” that features a few dark laughs and an energetically demented performance by David Howard Thornton as the titular green creature, but ultimately becomes redundant and dull.

With director Steven LaMorte and writers Finn Kobler and Flip Kobler sidestepping any direct Dr. Seuss quotes or references, “The Mean One” opens with narrator Christopher Sanders sounding more like Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter than Boris Karloff, intoning, “Remember that story about Cindy you-know-who … they loved their Christmas, those folks down in town, but what if I said, that’s not how it went down,” as we see a prologue in which an intruder dressed as Santa Claus kills little Cindy’s mother right in front of little Cindy, yikes!

Cut to nearly 20 years later, with the adult Cindy (Krystle Martin) and her father (co-writer Flip Kolber) returning to the town of Newville so they can sell the house (they left it sitting there all those years?) and Cindy can achieve some kind of closure to help her cope with her PTSD. They learn the entire town has steadfastly avoided celebrating the holiday in any way, shape or form these past two decades — and everyone blames Cindy and her claims of a furry, green monster for killing Christmas.

‘The Mean One’

Untitled

Atlas Film Distribution presents a film directed by Steven LaMorte and written by Flip and Finn Kobler. No MPAA rating. Running time: 93 minutes. Now showing at Regal City North.

When Cindy and her pops ignore the town’s silly ban and decorate the house with a wreath, a tree, lights, etc., it draws “The Mean One” out of the nearby mountains, and let’s just say if Cindy bought her dad any presents for Christmas, she’ll be returning them.

“The Mean One” introduces a number of horror-movie stock characters, from the bumbling but earnest police officer (Chase Mullins) who has a crush on Cindy, to the crusty old sheriff (Erik Baker) who tries not to roll his eyes at Cindy’s story of a green monster, to the obnoxious mayor (Amy Schumacher) who is running for re-election and is more horrified by bad publicity than the growing body count in and around town.

David Howard Thornton, who has risen to cult-fame status for his portrayal of Art the Clown in the “Terrifier” movies, does a fantastic job of turning the Grinch, I mean the Green One, into a gleefully monstrous killer (the makeup work is pretty great) with some athletic moves, but the human characters are one-dimensional and thinly drawn. (Alas, the performances from the leads are borderline wooden and unconvincing.)

“The Mean One” has a handful of inspired lines, e.g., “Time to roast this beast!” but the production values, editing, score and photography are average at best, and we’re left with a film that will be remembered mostly for a cleverly twisted marketing hook.

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