Review by Sean Boelman
For independent filmmakers, one of the best things that can boost your film’s profile is a little bit of healthy controversy. Steven LaMorte’s unauthorized Grinch parody The Mean One set the internet ablaze when it was announced, and while the final project isn’t terribly notable, it’s just about as fun as one would expect.
The movie tells the story of a young woman who, years after the murder of her mother at the hands of a Santa suit-clad monster, returns to her hometown where she hunts down the Christmas-hating monster. The latest in a line of horror movies “bastardizing” beloved children’s properties, it’s a gimmicky film, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.
Obviously, there is an inherent humor to the premise of a slasher movie that is essentially sacrilegious to the eponymous Christmas classic, and the movie makes for a pretty joyeux Noel when it goes completely unhinged. Unfortunately, those off-the-walls sequences only make up a small part of the film’s overall runtime.
One of the biggest issues with the movie is that it struggles to find a consistent tone. There are certainly some points in which the film’s tongue is firmly in its cheek, and then others at which it wants to be a serious slasher flick. It either needed to be more over-the-top or less campy for it to be fully effective.
Another distractingly bad choice made in the movie is going with largely CGI blood rather than practical effects. Obviously, it’s an independent film, and the filmmakers did the best they can do, but the lack of practical effects will prevent it from becoming a cult classic a la (the obvious comparison) Terrifier. Even a bit of corn syrup with red dye would have been preferable to this.
There is also the matter of the sound effects and score, which feel like stock music and sounds. Again, a lot of this can probably be chalked up to budgetary restrictions, but it’s in that weird, distracting middle ground between being too bad to be taken seriously and not bad enough to be funny.
That said, where this film succeeds that a lot of other modern low-budget horror movies don’t is giving us characters to legitimately care about. Perhaps it’s leftover goodwill from Cindy Lou Who or maybe it’s the romance subplot that is meant to parody Hallmark movies, but there’s something unexpectedly and undeniably charming about our heroine, Cindy.
The Mean One isn’t a particularly good movie, even by the standards of low-budget horror. Yet, at the same time, the film accomplishes exactly everything it sets out to do. It’s not the iconic movie it should have been, but it’s an enjoyable enough ride.
The Mean One hits theaters on December 9.