We all know why films chase existing IP. It’s mainly because of the money they’ll see. But what can they do if they don’t own the rights? Why, just change a few names and add a few frights!

That’s the gist of The Mean One as it works through this pinch. So it jokes, the lead character’s name rhymes with “Finch.” (It hits a few hundred theatres on Thursday, it’s said, with a wider expansion in the weeks still ahead.) It’s a goofy idea from Steven LaMorte. But the co-writer / director comes up a bit short. There’s some macabre glee, but you’ll leave wanting more. Or at least a lot less of the digital gore. Star David Howard Thornton does his best to look scary. But he ultimately kind of resembles Jim Carrey. Still, this Terrifier guy is the brightest effect. The rest of The Mean One is a tad too suspect.

When her mother is murdered on a dark Christmas Eve, young Cindy can only just break down and grieve. It was a green, scary monster, she says. That’s who did it! But the coy Newville sheriff will only dismiss it. Twenty years later, Cindy’s back from the brink, returning to Newville on the prompt of her shrink. She meets a cute cop and develops a crush, but that pesky ol’ sheriff still gives her the brush. 

Once Cindy returns, Christmas carnage resumes and she is once more consigned to her gloom. It’s the green one again! She has seen! Don’t you know? But the cops and the mayor want to keep status quo. As the bodies pile up, Cindy won’t give an inch. So she makes like a Strode had she battled “Mike Finch.” She’s helped by a zotzed out old drunk on the juice. Oh my word, they really named him Dr. Zeuss. Together, they team up to take out the greenie — the one snapping necks, heads and arms like a meanie. He kills like a mountain lion. Roars like one, too. Can a candy-cane shotgun take him out? That might do!

The Mean One has chuckles as it moves scene to scene, like the name of the mayor (Miss Margie McBean). And some parts, well, they feel the right kind of frisky, like when Dr. Zeuss chugs down brown Geisel whiskey. When the green guy decapitates someone with a trunk, it’s the right kind of tone for the right kind of junk. And all of it builds to a sorta-neat twist,. But most of the time, you’ll be clenching your fist. 

The second act lurches, and LaMorte is to blame because most of his action is rather quite lame. His framing is sloppy, the cuts herky-jerky, and the cheap color timing is always too murky. With this many geysers of CGI blood, the frenzies of murder often land with a thud. So, too, does The Mean One seek heart like its source, and to no one’s surprise, it feels very forced. This is clearly more fun when it’s tweaking convention. Nobody here cares for a villain’s redemption. You can’t fault LaMorte for pursuing this gig, but 90 minutes feels, well, three sizes too big.

So, The Mean One does not run afoul of the law. Nor does it stumble and land on its jaw. It’s a passable spoof with occasional nerve. You’ll just wish it showed more considerable verve.