Interview With Steven LaMorte, Director Of ‘The Mean One’

Tis the season for Christmas horror, and this year we are being gifted with an abundance of violence and blood. One of the most anticipated films this holiday season is not about the killer Santa you would expect, but a parody about the green creature that lives on the mountain, affectionately known as The Mean One. Starring David Howard Thornton (read our interview with him HERE) and directed by Steven LaMorte, The Mean One tells a slightly different tale about everyone’s favorite furry baddie that hates Christmas, and this time, the blood flows freely down the mountainside and into the tiny town below. There’s no Christmas cheer here.

To celebrate the release of The Mean One into theaters, I chatted with Steven about how the project came about, casting, Santacon, what’s up next, and more!

PopHorror: I watched The Mean One and I thought it was so funny. I really enjoyed it. I love Christmas horror. It was so entertaining, and I cannot wait for more people to see it.

Steven LaMorte: Thank you so much! I’ve always been a fan of Christmas horror movies and I love genre mashups, and I love flicks that are fun and entertaining – Gremlins, The Mummy. Kind of that rip roaring adventure flicks. I don’t really like dour or sad or “Let’s wait for the beautiful idiots to get killed.” I want something that’s got some charm, so I hope we made something that’s a fun holiday watch.

PopHorror: Yeah, absolutely! What inspired the story, and how did the project come about?

Steven LaMorte: I’ve kind of had this idea for maybe five or six years now. I remember some of my favorite children’s books, some of the classic stories that I was read to as a kid. Especially cartoons. For some reason, the source material and the imagery of the characters that the movie is about always freaked me out. I don’t know why. Other people would love Christmas time and some of these kids’ books and the more cartoony stuff, and for some reason it always creeped out. I don’t know why. It was something about a figure like the boogeyman from The Nightmare Before Christmas that just scared the hell out of me. So over the years, I got to thinking okay. If you had a giant, elusive green monster that lived on the mountain, if it was really pissed off about something, it probably wouldn’t sing a song. It probably would come down and bite your face off. So that’s kind of where this whole idea started. Initially, I just made this fake trailer. Just all the best jokes crammed into one three-and-a-half-minute video. I made it about a year ago, and I showed it to some people, and some friends, and some industry people. I was like, “Hey, what do you think? It was just a silly little project, and nobody was supposed to ever see it. And they’re like, “This is super fun. When’s the movie going to be done?” I said, “There is no movie. There’s no movie. This is it.” And they’re like, “Oh, you have to make the movie.” I said, “I’ve got no jokes left. That’s it. It’s four minutes. How long can this go on for? We get it. He’s green and he’s a monster.” And then the wheels started turning and I partnered up with two of my favorite writers who I’ve worked with on a bunch of other movies, Finn Kobler and Flip Kobler. We put together a script, and we had a reading, we thought, “Let’s do it!” And we threw caution to the wind and went for it, and now here we are.

David Howard Thornton as The Mean One.

PopHorror: That is awesome! This is being marketed as a Hallmark/Lifetime slasher horror parody. How did you convey your vision to your cast and crew?

Steven LaMorte: It really all comes down to them trusting the tone. The biggest thing I did was I took this mood board. I’m a genre film nut, right? So if there’s something in the movie that feels like it was stolen, it’s not stealing. It’s an homage. It’s just flattery. So I would just make these references and say, “Hey, for this scene, take a look at Halloween. The new 2018.” “For this scene, take a look at Psycho.” “For this scene, take a look at Rocky, Terminator 2.” I would start with those references, and then I did sketches. I did a lot of very terrible, crudely drawn sketches, and photoshopped composites of a green Yeti or Sarah Connor with Krystle’s (star Martin) head on it. Just trying to get people to get the sense of what we were up to. And then I build a lot of my own props, like designing her armor. I made the feet, the first build of the creature I did before we brought on our amazing make-up team, Tatjana (Bluchel) and Ashleigh (Thiel). It just kind of starts there, and then they close their eyes and pray that it’s all going to  make sense and hopefully it does.

PopHorror: I love the tree ornaments that she had hanging from her vest, and the star on the back. I loved that her shotgun was candy cane striped

Steven LaMorte: Let me tell you. If there is anything that I would like to give to this world, it’s the design for a candy cane shotgun.

PopHorror: Right?!

Steven LaMorte: The number of people who have asked where they can get one. I’m not an arms dealer and it’s a prop so it’s one of one limited edition. We just really wanted to have fun with it. There’s definitely a bunch of gags that we cut, involving the spikes on the top of her outfit that had a purpose. Krystle’s really good with short swords, so there’s a gag with the candy cane blades that we had to cut for time. I’ve got a million Christmas weapons up my sleeve, and depending on how Violent Night does, we’ll see if I get to break them out some day.

Krystle Martin as Cindy in The Mean One.

PopHorror: That’s really cool. I noticed that outside the house, all of the candy canes are upside down.

Steven LaMorte: Yes.

PopHorror: What was that about?

Steven LaMorte: The thing that I really wanted to bring to the story, is there’s this kind of role reversal. Because Cindy is kind of scarred, and tortured, and the idea that Christmas really hurts her. They don’t do Christmas because of what happened to her parents. What we really wanted to show was, if the creature is attracted to Christmas. Or he doesn’t like Christmas, or that it sets him off in any kind of a way. We said, “Well, how would she use that as a weapon against him?” If you were going to have a vampire, how would you break out sunlight, or stakes? Or with werewolves, what would you do with silver? So we thought, what if she did like a junkyard, heavy metal Christmas? So we took all the Christmas decorations we had used for the first two thirds of the movie, sharpened them and we added barbed wire. We put up The Mean One dummy, just to create this warzone feel as part of her Home Alone-style entrapment of the creature.

PopHorror: I thought the upside-down candy canes resembled upside down crosses, like the Christmas equivalency.

Steven LaMorte: Yes! Yes it was. Great catch! It’s funny. A lot of times when you’re trying to create something unique or design, like the action for the show like working with our stunt coordinator Terence (Rotolo), we would just pick up these Christmas decorations and turn them upside down and you’re like, “This lawn ornament is pointy. You could hurt somebody with that.” Or “Has anyone ever thrown a sharp and pointy snowflake, like a throwing star?” We just start speculating and coming up with all these ideas. Some of them make it into the movie and some of them don’t. The upside-down candy canes are definitely supposed to be something like a Vietnam-style stake trap.

PopHorror: That’s so cool! Was there anything that you were adamant about keeping in the film no matter what?

Steven LaMorte: I don’t want to comment on the ending too much, but I would say the ending of the film for sure, has definitely been a point of contention. The ending of the film is relatively controversial. The other thing – something that I wouldn’t budge on – is the SantaCon sequence. That was something that I’ve wanted since we first decided to make this into a feature. That big restaurant murder fest. When you read it in the script, it just goes on for pages and pages. He kills a Santa like this, he kills a Santa like that, he kills a Mrs. Claus. She’s showing some skin and she goes into the grinder. From day one, I said, “I don’t care where it goes. I don’t care how many days it takes. I hate these SantaCon people. I lived in New York City. They’re going in the meat grinder! If you cut anything, that’s going to stay.” And I’m super glad that we kept it.

PopHorror: That was a really fun scene. I especially liked the Christmas Tree costume.

Steven LaMorte: The Christmas tree! I’m sad to say that the tree had to go, but you know. That’s The Mean One for you.

PopHorror: That was great. I really enjoyed the cast. The narrator was spot on. Something about his voice is very calming. Chase Mullins as the bumbling deputy was great, and of course David Howard Thornton as The Mean One. How was your casting process?

Steven LaMorte: Once you have a script that you’re really, really happy with, and these characters are really clear – they’re all just so well written – we kind of knew between Amy (Schumacher) and myself, that we wanted to bring on a cast that would get the tone, could physically do all of the things that we’re asking of them, and were willing to take it so seriously that they didn’t take themselves seriously. I had worked with Krystle before. She actually played one of the Powerpuff Girls in a Powerpuff Girls adaptation I had made five years ago. Chase was the second lead in a zombie film noir movie that I directed that’s coming out next year. And David Howard Thornton is, of course, Art the Clown from Terrifier, and I went to high school with the producer of Terrifier. So I’ve known those guys for years. As soon as we read the script and I had seen the first Terrifier and was excited for the second one, I said, “I’m not a huge fan of gory slasher films, but let me take a look at Terrifier again.” I sat down with Amy, the producer, and we watched the film. We were like, “Oh, my god and he’s silent! He’s spooky. His performance is big and cartoonish, but also menacing.” David has always wanted to play this role. I think he said he was involved in like a Broadway production at a certain point. So he’s been chomping at the bit to do something big and a kind of zany part. Once we put the cast together and did our first table read, we knew we had something special. Once we saw him the make-up and I saw him half made up looking in the mirror practicing his facial expressions with the prosthetics on, I said, “Oh he’s going to bring it.” And when you see him in that last scene, this is not just… He’s not just flouncing about. He really brings something to the character, and we’re just behind the monitor every day in stitches. The cast literally would break out into applause after he would kill somebody because it was just so fun to watch. We’re very fortunate to have such a great cast. And then Flip Kobler, who plays Cindy’s father, is one of the two writers.

Flip Kobler as Lou in The Mean One.

PopHorror: Oh, I missed that! I really liked his character. One of the best in the film.

Steven LaMorte: What’s great about Flip is he’s as talented an actor as he is a writer. He’s got crazy credits. He has written The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride. He wrote a Pocahontas film, and a Beauty and the Beast film. Crazy talented as a writer. But all of that comes from his innate sense as a performer. He’s one of the few people I know who’s proud to have gone to mime school.

PopHorror: What is up next for you?

Steven LaMorte: My newest film that’s coming out early next year is a zombie film noir movie called Bury Me Twice. It’s basically a live action comic book that’s set in the 1950s, and it’s about a hardboiled detective and his motley cast of friends who are trying to solve the mystery of the zombie apocalypse in 1950s Los Angeles. So it’s a genre mashup of zombies and film noir, and the whole thing is shot green screen kind of like Sin City.

PopHorror: I am intrigued!

Steven LaMorte: And after that, which I haven’t announced yet, but I do have another horror parody that I’m working on. Well, I guess it’s been a book, it’s been a movie, but a very popular thing that you’ve definitely heard of that I’ll be announcing soon.

PopHorror: That is exciting! One last question for you today, Steven. What’s your favorite scary movie?

Steven LaMorte: That would definitely have to be The Mummy with Brendan Fraser.

Thank you so much to Steven for taking the time to speak with us. The Mean One is in theaters, now!

About Tiffany Blem

Horror lover, dog mommy, book worm, EIC of PopHorror.

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