A green furry monster is killing anyone who celebrates Christmas in Steven LaMorte's film.

In the holiday season-set horror-comedy The Mean One (out Dec. 9), a woman named Young Cindy You-Know-Who returns to her hometown 20 years after her mother was murdered by a furry green monster in a Santa suit, only to discover that the beastie is still on the loose and killing anyone who celebrates Christmas.

As you may have guessed, the film riffs on Dr. Seuss' children's story How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and its subsequent movie adaptations. So how is it that director Steven La Morte was able to release this new iteration of some very established IP in theaters (or anywhere)?

"Well, parody is protected by the constitution," says the filmmaker. "I don't want to say that I'm a legal scholar, but I've done more than my fair share of research and consultation just to make sure that we're not denigrating the source material. I love these stories; we want to honor it, of course, but it's a parody; it's supposed to be funny. Every word and script choice was chosen with the intention of really sticking to the letter of the law and making sure that we are a parody. We just wanted to put our own spin on it."

The Mean One (2022)
'The Mean One'
| Credit: Images courtesy of Atlas Film Distribution

Written by Finn and Flip Kobler, The Mean One is based on a story by the director. "Yes, this has been my baby for, gosh, at least six years," says LaMorte, whose previous directing credits include the 2017 action film Never Leave Alive. "This has always been that sticky note that sits on your idea board: what if we did a monster movie version of this story? Then, last year, I had a commercial shoot that I was supposed to do, and it was canceled last minute. I said, well, I already have the crew booked, what if I just changed what we were shooting? So I took all of my notes and put together a fake trailer. We shot it, we cut it together, and I showed some friends in the industry, just as a lark, it was never supposed to go anywhere. They said, 'Wow, this trailer's super fun; when's the movie coming?' I said, 'There's no movie. We just made this trailer. It's done, that's it.' One thing led to another, and some of my partners were like, what if it could be a movie? And now here we are."

Actor and stunt performer Krystle Martin plays Cindy You-Know-Who, while rising horror star David Howard Thornton embodies the Christmas-hating creature.

"David is unbelievable," says LaMorte. "Most people know him as Art the Clown from Terrifier and Terrifier 2. Because he's classically trained as a mime and as an actor, what he brings to a non-verbal character is just astonishing to watch. When he got on set, he was The Mean One. There are so many takes where we were like, 'Do you want to do another take for fun?' and he's like, 'Every take is fun! What if I killed them like this? What if I snarl? What if I laugh?' He bounces back between funny and scary so effortlessly, and it's a thrill to watch. The first time David came out and did a little dance, the whole crew applauded for him, completely unsolicited. I knew we had something special."

David Howard Thornton in The Mean One
'The Mean One'
| Credit: Images courtesy of Atlas Film Distribution

LaMorte is not the only filmmaker to give a beloved children's character a horror twist. Rhys Frake-Waterfield's Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey takes a similar path and, according to Dread Central, that filmmaker will also produce a new version of Bambi in which the lovable fawn becomes a killing machine. What is the appeal of remodeling characters in this fashion?

"There was a time, 10, 20, 30 years ago, when the idea of taking existing IP and doing something with it was crazy, right?" says LaMorte. "How dare you go and change somebody else's thing! But nowadays, with social media and the internet, I really think [the] fanbase really takes ownership of these characters. People want to play in this world. Filmmakers, we're storytellers, we're kids with toys; we want to get in the sandbox and play with our toys. This kind of rise of creator-modified characters comes from our collective desire to take ownership of the things that we love and put our own spin on it."

Atlas Film Distribution is releasing The Mean One in theaters Dec. 9. Watch the film's trailer above.

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