‘The Mean One’ Review: The Grinch Stole the Fun From This Horror Flick
The Mean One is the horror-movie reimagining of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, told from the point of view of Cindy Lou Who as an adult. Sounds like a wacky, wonky, fractured fairytale, right? The film starts off with rhyming narration, fitting in with the original, and has a cute little girl with pigtails… witnessing a traumatic horror amidst the sparkling glow of Christmas lights. That seems like the perfect start to a silly horror film. Unfortunately, it’s not.
The Mean One starts where The Grinch ends, with Cindy befriending The Mean One… except that her mother comes downstairs and freaks out when she sees her daughter with a monster. Mom attacks The Mean One, The Mean One fights back, and kills her.
20 years later, Cindy (Krystle Martin) returns to Newville with her father to sell the old family house and, hopefully, put the trauma of seeing her mom killed behind her. Dad is especially disappointed when they show up in town and discover that Newville hasn’t just lost their Christmas spirit; they have seemingly banished it. No one decorates, no one celebrates, you can’t even buy anything Christmassy in the stores. Dad refuses to accept this and finds every bit of tinsel he can to decorate the house and bring some holiday cheer into his daughter’s life. Of course, that holiday cheer also brings out The Mean One (David Howard Thornton), who sees the decorations and kills Dad while Cindy is taking out the garbage, leaving her convinced that the Christmas Killer is back to finish the job.
While cleaning up her father’s blood, Cindy discovers a strange flower. She traces it back to a specific hiking trail; more specifically, a cave on this hiking trail. In this cave, she finds the wallets of missing hikers and, with the help of a cute young deputy (whom the film makes a very pointed attempt to show is Jewish), she begins to investigate. After meeting with a strange, drunk man who looks suspiciously like Santa Claus and tells Cindy about The Mean One, Cindy begins training herself, determined to face down her demon herself.
Personally, I love the idea of destroying childhood stories with tales of bloodthirsty killers and other, decidedly not PG-rated story devices. Unfortunately… this just isn’t it. It was cute, the different ways that they tried to get around using the name “The Grinch,” and other ways they obviously tried to tie into the Dr. Seuss story without getting slammed for copyright infringement. But it lacked one, very important thing to make this kind of movie work.
What The Mean One lacked was a sense of humor. This kind of spoofy-type horror movie needs to understand that it is not meant to be serious. It needs to understand and accept that it is meant to be ridiculous, over-the-top, and silly. For example, there are a number of scenes that felt straight out of a Lifetime or Hallmark Channel Christmas movie – but they felt like they were trying too hard to be genuine. I wanted something cheesy, tacky, over-the-top, and laughably ridiculous.
While the murder scenes were good (especially the mass murder in the diner), there just weren’t enough of them. There was plenty of blood splatter, but it was all digital blood, which frankly, just feels lazy in this day and age. Bring us more slaughter, and real, fake blood. There was a general lack of playfulness in this film. Everyone felt like they were taking their roles very seriously.
The one exception was The Mean One, played with aplomb by Art the Clown himself, David Howard Thornton. He knows how to play a non-verbal psycho-killer who can emote from behind makeup. He looked like he was enjoying himself; he looked like he was having a little bit of fun with the role. And how could you not? The Mean One costume and makeup looked quite good, and surprisingly similar to Jim Carrey’s look in the official How The Grinch Stole Christmas movie from 2000.
I wanted to like The Mean One, I really did. But aside from The Mean One himself, there was too much not to like in this film.