Ginger Nuts of Horror
BY JOE X YOUNG
The song ‘Shoot the sherbet to me Herbert’ has the classic line ‘I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream’ but in the case of this DVD there isn’t a whole lot to scream about. The core concept here is sound enough with a psychotic ice cream man driving around the neighbourhood and killing random people, which isn’t a new idea (Clint Howard did it better in ‘The Ice Cream Man’ back in 1995) but with the right treatment it could be a good one.
Having read the cover blurb and quotes on the DVD (image above) I was quite looking forward to this but was left wondering if I’d actually seen the same film as the other reviewers. The killer on the front of the DVD isn’t in the film and bears no resemblance to the actual one who is on the back of the DVD cover, which is understandable given how vanilla the real one looks. You can’t judge a movie by its cover, but it should at least have the right people on it. Anyway, that’s a minor issue but it is indicative of what we get with the film as it promises far more than it delivers.
The film is set in a standard suburban location which is normal, but the killings, as few as they are, are of occupants of the same street and not all happening the same night, which is just plain dumb. There’s hardly a mention of the people who have been killed off, no mention of where the bodies are taken to and zero Police presence, all of which stretch credibility. There are some good points of which all of the general technical aspects are crisp and clean and the acting from all concerned is believable to a higher than average degree for low budget horror even if the dialogue is borderline tedious, so it is somewhat sad to see such a polished production fall flat because of essentially one problem… The script sucks.
Deanna Russo stars as Mary, a thirtysomething housewife/freelance writer who has returned to her old neighbourhood to set up home and await the arrival of her husband and children a few days later. Deanna is pleasant enough and wholly believable in the role.
Mary has a dalliance with a neighbouring student called Max played by John Redlinger who, armed with a six pack (and we are not just talking beer), a bag of weed and rampant testosterone decides upon getting some milf action, which unfortunately becomes a major focal point of the film. All very stereotypical, as are the entire cast so there’s really nothing new to see here. Emil Johnsen as the ice cream man is about as scary as bellybutton fluff, which I think is more a case of him doing his best with the material he was given than anything else. On second viewing I’m of the opinion that the film was aiming for a slightly comical approach, but that fell flat if indeed it was the intent.
Okay, so the seasoned horror fan will have encountered several dozen dumb ass plots and some often ridiculous devices which the viewer is to treat as mental bubble-gum, and we do so because it’s all just entertainment. This is where The Ice Cream Truck has a fundamental flaw, it’s just not entertaining. Much of why I found it that way is because of the general setup regarding the Truck and the driver. I don’t know much about the vehicle except to say that it looks like it hails from the 50s or 60s and is in beautiful condition, it’s a panel Truck with a step in rear containing chest freezers with an old-fashioned limited selection of scoop ice cream, so all very traditional and charming. The ice cream man himself is also charming, wearing a traditional white outfit and speaking as if he just stepped out of Pleasantville, which although it sets apart from the more gruesome portrayals of ice cream men it also ramps up his visibility, which surely isn’t a good idea for a serial killer.
In the recent Stephen King series Mr Mercedes the psychopath is a part-time ice cream man, he has a contemporary Truck and clothing and is all rather non-descript. He spies on the detective random times during daylight whilst selling ice creams but never commits a crime whilst doing so. That’s a proper portrayal, he doesn’t make himself obvious and even though his presence attracts attention it is assumed he’s just there to sell ices and nothing more, so he is effectively hiding in plain sight. In The Ice Cream Truck the killer is basically as thick as pigshit. Suspension of disbelief only goes so far, yet we are expected to believe that a man in a classic vehicle which plays a tune deliberately intended to draw attention will not be noticed when he’s killing someone, getting his crisp white outfit plastered in blood and then casually, slowly driving away with the tune still playing. All that’s missing is a huge neon sign on top of the Truck saying ‘serial killer’ with an arrow pointing at the driver.
On the subject of the tune that the Truck is playing it is called ’Turkey in the Straw’, but is probably better known as either a playground song ‘do your ears hang low’ or a more recent take on it ‘Chain Hang Low’ by ‘Jibbs’ which features an Ice Cream Truck in the video, leading me to wonder if this somehow inspired the film… perhaps not.
I realise it’s just entertainment or is supposed to be, and I also know I’m a harsh audience, so if this sort of thing doesn’t matter to you then please feel free to ignore what I say here and give the film a shot. It only matters to me because it shifts my focus from the enjoyment of the medium, so instead of sitting back and relaxing I find myself leaning forward, often gesticulating and saying out loud ‘dafuq’ or some other such expletive and thinking more about how the hell the ice cream man is going to get the blood out of a white cotton outfit as even on a cold wash it’s bound to stain. There’s not much in the way of murders happening in this film and it has a twist ending which didn’t do a lot for me either, all of which is a bloody shame because the cinematography and sound are all perfectly good and even the acting in general is fine.
I know there are many people who have put their hearts and souls into making The Ice Cream Truck and they are quite probably highly proud of the achievement, especially when they are given such sterling reviews from other sources and I wish them well, honest I do, because at least they are getting off their arses and doing something. I always feel mean when giving a bad review, but better that than ignoring it.
If you decide you want to check it out for yourself then stop them and buy one.