July 11, 2017

Movie Review: The Ice Cream Truck

When I first started watching The Ice Cream Truck, I was not sure what to expect. The trailer seemed to indicate a strange Stepford Wives-esque town with a serial killer ice cream truck driver problem. Now, that seems interesting enough. It looked like it was on the edge of some sort of Twilight Zone-ish feel, but now that it is over I am not quite sure what to think. It is a bit more serious in tone and slightly more languidly paced than I was expecting. The movie simultaneously satisfies and disappoints and seems to be somewhat lacking in actual horror, despite having the obvious potential.

The Ice Cream Truck was written and directed by Megan Freels Johnston, and it is clear she has storytelling in her blood, she is the granddaughter of Elmore Leonard. With this film she has presented a creepy tale of suburbia and a desire to reclaim a lost youth. The film is far from perfect, although I found it rather engrossing all the way through. I kind of wish there was a stronger focus on the horror undercurrent and less on the dramatic side. It felt, at times, to be unconnected stories that just happened to run concurrently but really knit together as a singular story.

The tale centers on Mary (Deanna Russo of Mary Horror, Rest Stop, Being Human). She has moved back to her hometown after her husband has his job relocated there. Mary has moved into their new home in advance of her family, as they are waiting for school to end to complete the move. As Mary encounters her new neighbors, she finds she is not all that comfortable around these overly chipper and plastic seeming folks. Then there is the old school ice cream truck, with its equally old school driver (Emil Johnsen, Norwegian Ninja). There is also the little thing of his murdering townsfolk.

Anyway, Mary encounters the neighbors recent high school graduate, Max (John Redlinger). She begins spending more and more time with him, sometimes when he just shows up on her doorstep. Even though she knows she shouldn’t but being a twice married and young mother yearning for her last youth, she is drawn to him.

The movie moves slowly and oftentimes feels like two films mashed up, the drama of Mary’s lost youth and the slasher ice cream truck driver. Deanna Russo has a wonderful screen presence and it is fascinating to watch her navigate the town and struggle with her feelings and being back in her home town. Her character is able to achieve a good deal of complexity while doing very little.

If there is one thing I wanted more of, it is the horror element. I am a horror fan above all other genres and while this has some elements (some kills, a little blood) it never actually embraces its horror elements. It is almost like they were added to give the movie a little excitement and broaden genre appeal.

The Ice Cream Truck is quite a worthy film, even with my reservations. Russo’s performance alone makes it worthwhile, and even though he doesn’t get as much to do as I would have liked, Johnsen’s performance as the ice cream truck driver is convincing and not without a hint of menace. The movie paints an uneasy portrait of suburbia that freely lives in a world of parody, but fortunately never falls into camp. It is a good film that could have used a little more work. Still, check it out, it does some things very good.

The Ice Cream Truck will be released in theaters and on VOD August 18.

Mildly Recommended.

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