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The Mean One (2022) Review

The Mean One, along with Mad Heidi and Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, is part of an unexpected crop of horror and exploitation films based on children’s tales arriving this Christmas. Since Dr, Suess’ Grinch is still under copyright, the makers of this film had to change a few names to bring us the tale of Cindy You-Know-Who and the residents of Newville’s battle against the evil green creature known as The Mean One.

Our story begins with a familiar flashback accompanied by the rhyming narration of Christopher Sanders (MVP, No Reservations) but, in a twist, just as young Cindy (Saphina Chanadet, Balance of the Force) is about to change The Mean One’s (David Howard Thornton, Terrifier 2, The Dark Offerings) attitude her mother appears and attacks him, getting herself killed in the process.

Now, twenty years later, Cindy (Krystle Martin, Malignant, They Live in the Grey) has come home. And with the help of her father Lou (Flip Kobler, Silent and Forgotten, American Drive-In) to try and find closure so she can put the past behind her. Wish her luck, because she’s going to need it, no sooner have they put up the decorations than her father is killed and once again, nobody believes that a monster did it.

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Director Steven LaMorte (Never Leave Alive, Bury Me Twice) and writers Flip and Fin Kobler (Food for Thought) start with elements of the familiar children’s story then twist it so that any hint of celebrating Christmas summons the mean green killing machine. The killings are handled in the style of a slasher, with Thornton giving the same kind of quirky performance here as he gives as Art the Clown.

What The Mean One doesn’t share with Art’s exploits is the gore. There is a lot of blood, but at times there’s so much, and it’s so cartoonish looking I think it’s meant to be part of the satire. If so, CGI blood fails as badly at being funny as it does when used seriously. For gore, there are some body parts and a rather tame cleaver to the head. Even during the restaurant massacre, the kills we see are mostly of the snapped neck or blow to the head variety.

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As for the humour in The Mean One, it is a satire remember’ it’s mostly low-key. A bartender calling for Mr. Finch every time somebody is about to say Grinch is amusing, and the film’s resolution is genuinely funny. There’s also a funny post-credits scene that ties in with one of the earlier killings.

Plotwise the film is actually fairly interesting, drawing in some skeletons in the closets of Mayor McBean (Amy Schumacher, Trials of Ember, Get Spy) and Sheriff Hooper (Erik Baker, The Verge, 8:46) who have plenty of reasons to cover up the creature’s activities. Cindy, whose gone into Sarah Connor mode, eventually gets allies in the form of Deputy Burke (Chase Mullins, Driven, Brut Force) and Doc (John Bigham, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Trial and Error), a Quint-like character who’s been after The Mean One since it killed his wife.

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While not the blood-soaked black comedy some of its early publicity suggested it was going to be, The Mean One is a fun send-up of the Christmas staple. Watching it probably won’t turn into an annual event, but it is worth seeing at least once.

Originally, it was announced that XYZ Films was going to release The Mean One to streaming services in mid-December. For reasons unknown, they’ve apparently bowed out, and Atlas Film Distribution is opening the film exclusively at Regal Cinemas nationwide on December 9th, with special advance screenings taking place on the evening of the 8th. Additional details about where to see it on the big screen can be found on the film’s website and Facebook page. If you’re still feeling festive, FilmTagger can suggest some more seasonal films.

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