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The Mean One Film Review: As Cuddly as a Cactus

Despite its promising premise, The Mean One falls short of its potential due to poor visual editing, questionable directing choices, and a generally underwhelming plot.

Sometimes as a critic, a film comes across your desk with a premise too alluring to resist. This time around, the enticing bait was The Mean One, a horror/parody film featuring a murderous monster bearing a resemblance to a certain green children’s book character. Well, needless to say, my curiosity took over, and I simply had to see what Steven LaMorte’s latest film could offer.

Twenty years after after her mother was murdered by a mysterious green creature on Christmas, Cindy (Krystal Martin) returns to her hometown of Newville at her therapist’s suggestion. She is met by a string of gristly murders that force her to confront her greatest fears, and is confronted by a conspiracy that goes deeper than she could have ever anticipated. I wanted to like this. I really, really did. The promotional material certainly made it look entertaining! The titular Mean One’s (David Howard Thorton) design looked pretty good, and there was a promise of a wacky horror experience. Those who were expecting something akin to Evil Dead 2, however, will probably leave disappointed.

First of all, the visuals could use some work: the lighting is inconsistent as the color grading changes from scene-to-scene, which can be distracting. Shaky-cam makes multiple appearances not only in the more action-packed scenes, even in still scenes as well that really don’t call for it. And then, on top of all of that, a lot of things were added in post that would have looked much better if they had been made practically: everything from blood spurts, blood stains, fire, smoke, signs, and even a brochure in a picture were all clearly shopped in during post production, and they look really fake.

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The Mean One (Atlas Film Distribution)

And the thing is, had The Mean One committed to the absurdity of its own premise and embraced the camp, the cheapness of the visuals could have been totally forgivable. But the film often takes itself way too seriously, often leading to weird tonal clashes when it makes a meta joke about how this is clearly a parody of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but they’re not actually allowed to say “Grinch.” The only real camp or absurdity we get is from some small Carrey-isms delivered from Thorton.

But outside of the fact that the Mean One shares a striking resemblance to Dr. Seuss’ famous character, he really just feels like a standard slasher villain. I was hoping for some wacky over-the-top kills that maybe paid homage to the original story in some way (maybe he could have run people down with his sleigh or have an evil dog companion named Max?), but no, he mostly just claws people or slashes them with cleavers or knives. Look, I get that this production wasn’t exactly flushed with cash, so I wasn’t expecting Nightmare on Elm Street’s blood volcano or anything, but there were other ways of paying homage to the source material than just making puns.

I suppose, at the end of the day, you could sum up The Mean One in two words: “unrealized potential.” There’s a good movie in there; it has all of the pieces to become a cult classic. But between the cheap-looking visuals, the lackluster writing, the inconsistent tone, and the bizarre fact that a room full of maybe a dozen drunk dudebros didn’t even try to defend themselves against a single green furry all lead to The Mean One being a bit of a disappointment. You can say that my heart is three sizes too small if you like, but to me, The Mean One is an underwhelming final product that could have been much more.

The Mean One will be released on digital platforms on October 3, 2023.

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