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Saturday, August 12, 2017

my thoughts on.... 'The Ice Cream Truck'

As with all of my reviews of films for The Creepercast, I fully recommend that you check each and every one of them out. I am one man and this is my opinion. I've seen plenty of movies that received reviews that were the complete opposite of how I saw the film. These writers, directors, producers and actors all put a lot of time and love into these projects. They deserve to be seen and appreciated for what they are. Everyone has a dream and I fully support the people that take the time to make theirs a reality. With that being said....

We all know that living in the suburbs isn't always the idyllic Norman Rockwell painting that it appears to be. We've seen countless movies that have proven that the “normal” life, isn't always that normal under the surface. Hell, David Lynch, cornered the market on weird tales of suburbia and the dark underbelly that no one ever wants to talk about. Maybe his tales were a bit more fantastic fantasy, than reality, but the foundation was based on real life. It stems from the fish out of water feeling that we all get, when we move into unfamiliar territory. Marry that with the seedy stories that seem to leak out, over the years, as small town residents move into the city and begin to unburden themselves of their old baggage. More and more, the 1950's, black and white televised lifestyle has been proven to be nothing more than a screenwriters fantasy. Something that lives only in reruns and romanticized memories of days long gone. In Megan Reels Johnston's 2nd directorial and screenwriting outing, she's attempting to re-tell the tale from her perspective. New neighbors, the gossip fiend next door, trouble making kids and a killer ice cream man that seems to be anachronistic? We've all seen it before.... or have we?

In this modern day fairy tale, Mary (played by the very charismatic Deanna Russo) moves back to her old hometown. Opting to take her family and place them into a small town suburban setting, she comes ahead of them, in order to start setting up. Meanwhile, her husband and 2 children stay behind to finish out things back home, before coming out to join her. During her first day there, she meets the neighbors and is quickly invited to a graduation party for one of the local boys, Max (played by John Redlinger). After being harassed by the mover (played by the amazing Jeff Daniel Phillips), she begins to almost feel like she may have made the wrong decision to move. During the course of that same first day, Mary notices an old school ice cream truck, cruising the streets and providing the local residents with sweet dairy treats. It looks like a vehicle out of another time and place. After a very bizarre encounter with the neighbors at the party, Mary continues to get an uneasy feeling about her new surroundings. Things begin to spiral down into a bizarre string of occurrences, which make her question her own sanity as the quiet life she'd dreamed of, may be shrouded in murder and madness.

I'm not sure where to begin with this review and I'm not sure how much to really give away about the story? There's so many positives going on, but there are also so many negatives. First of all, I should really give some kudos to Michael Boateng for his rather effective and well done scoring of this film. It has a very old school feel to it and it underlines the story, as it slowly unfolds. I think I understand what Megan Reels Johnston was attempting to do with this film, but I feel that it really fell short of the mark she was aiming for. Despite having a really excellent cast, who provided some great performances, this film felt like so many student produced movies from when I was in film school. Lots of eagerness to tell a story and a strong desire to buck the Hollywood system, but not enough story telling experience to maintain the core concepts they were trying to convey. The film, itself, starts out very strong and maintained my interest through out. However, it felt like a ride on a horse and buggy, in so much that it was incredibly uneven and had a lot of bumps that took you out of the story. It also failed to provide adequate motivation for the two main “villains” in the story and what was really going on with either of them. The main characters provided the basis of a made for TV movie about strange things going on in a small town, but with a bit more blood. There was a lot of potential here for something really great. It just suffered too much from a desire to be weird for the sake of trying to make the audience think that the movie had more meaning and depth to it, than it actually did. A lot of unanswered questions and a twist ending that felt unsatisfying and as though she didn't know how to end it.

As far as horror films go, this was anything but scary. I don't think that was her intention though. As far as psychological thrillers go, this wasn't intelligent enough to be anything to be remembered. I will give the director credit for moving the story forward and keeping the viewers interest. I legitimately wanted to see how it ended and was intrigued with the overall story development. For me, the credit goes more to the cast and specifically the leading lady, Deanna Russo. She held the entire story together and the chemistry between her and John Redlinger, was undeniable. Beyond that, I don't think this is anything I would recommend to friends or family. The ambiguous ending aside, The Ice Cream Man (played by Emil Johnsen) was confusing and Jeff Daniel Phillips character, was almost too tacked on to be worth mention. He did the best with what he had, but left me feeling like he was short changed in the whole deal. I would give this 3 out of 5 stars, in terms of the film making/cinematography/ and acting, but 2 out of 5 stars for the poor story telling and terrible ending. Therefore, we're going to call this a 2 and a ½ star film, at best. 'The Ice Cream Truck' is a muddled mess of a movie, that had all the ear marks of a sleeper classic, that suffered from too many good ideas gone bad. I only hope that the cast and crew, along with the writer/director, keep working towards another project. This time, I hope that they fully flush out a story and that has a solid first, second and third act. No more incomplete endings and giant question marks at the end. If they can accomplish that, then I think we'll have something really unique to talk about.

'The Ice Cream Truck' will be released in theaters and on VOD August 18. (This just became available to stream on Amazon Prime on August 11th)

If you'd rather see some other, better, suburban nightmares, then check out: 'Blue Velvet', 'The Stepfather' (1987) and 'The House of the Devil'