The Ice Cream Truck (Movie Review)

The Ice Cream Truck (Movie Review)
7 10

PLOT: While a mother kills time waiting for her family to arrive at their new home, an ice cream man is killing her neighbors.

REVIEW: THE ICE CREAM TRUCK first caught my attention due to the fact that writer/director Megan Freels Johnston is the granddaughter of one of my favorite authors, Elmore Leonard, but then the film was able to appeal to me on its own merits. Johnston made a movie totally different from the works of her grandfather, a horror film most easily described as a slasher, which saves her from any comparisons. While I was curious to see what something made by a descendant of Leonard would be like, that wasn't the primary reason why I watched THE ICE CREAM TRUCK at the first opportunity - I watched it because it sounded like an intriguing slasher, and I love slasher movies.

The film centers on Deanna Russo as Mary, a thirty-something married mother of two who has moved back into the suburban neighborhood she grew up in. Mary has arrived several days ahead of her husband and children, and while there is work to get done she also has a whole lot of free time while waiting for them. Time enough to get into some trouble while trying to "reclaim her youth" a bit during this time alone - which happens to be the first time Mary, who became a mother at a young age, has had any alone time in twelve years.

Causing even more trouble is the local ice cream man (Emil Johnsen), who drives around the neighborhood in his old ice cream truck and takes a strict traditionalist approach to his trade. This ice cream man serves cones and shakes, but no store-bought confections. Mary finds something creepy about his old school demeanor, and she's right to be creeped out by him. The ice cream man is a slasher, a serial killer who targets teenagers that drink, do drugs, and/or indulge in sex out of wedlock.

The slasher side of things is very standard. The kills are merely serviceable and the killer plays by the established rules of the sub-genre. However, Johnston was not playing by any rules when crafting the rest of the film around the ice cream man. This is not your average slasher movie - in fact, the movie wouldn't be substantially changed if the slasher aspect were removed entirely. More than anything, this is an indie drama about a mother making the most of getting a few days of "me time" and doing some questionable things along the way.

It's tough to talk about THE ICE CREAM TRUCK without bringing up the ending, and while I won't spoil it I will say that it is the main element that will determine whether or not a viewer felt the film was worth the time they spent watching it. Some may like it, some may find it interesting to ponder, but others are likely to be let down, if not outraged. I did not see the ending coming, I didn't expect it at all, and while I still found the rest of the movie enjoyable enough that I'm glad I watched it, I am really not sure about those final minutes. I would have preferred a different ending.

The ending may not be the first time viewers are bothered by the film, as Mary's behavior provides plenty of moments to disapprove of. She is not your average slasher heroine - she smokes pot, she drinks, and she clearly has a desire to cheat on her husband with the teenage neighbor (John Redlinger) who provides the aforementioned pot. I was very surprised by how far Johnston allowed things to go... I just wish it had turned out differently in the end.

Through all of Mary's ill-advised choices, I remained interested in following the character thanks to the performance delivered by Russo. Mary's a bit awkward and messed up, and Russo makes her feel real. You may be baffled by some of the things she does, but she always seems like someone you might really encounter in the suburbs.

This might be odd to say, but I almost think I would have liked THE ICE CREAM TRUCK even more if it had simply been a drama about a mom sowing some wild oats, without the ice cream man stalking around. At the same time, though, I did really like watching Johnsen as the ice cream man, so I'm glad I got to see him in the role. 

Whether or not THE ICE CREAM TRUCK would have been more satisfying without the slasher, the version that does exist is a solid, entertaining, well-made film with strong performances from its leads. Just beware of the ending.

Extra Tidbit: Uncorkā€™d Entertainment has released THE ICE CREAM TRUCK on VOD.



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