Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla DVD Review
Written by Joel Harley
DVD released by Monster Pictures
Directed by Stuart Simpson
Written by Addison Heath
2013, Region 2 (PAL), 85 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 10th November 2014
Glenn Maynard as Warren Thompson
Kyrie Capri as Katey George
Aston Elliot as Rocko
Louise Bremner as Ash
Benjamin Grant Mitchell as Tommo
Kristen Condon as Emmy
'Upsetting' is not a word one would normally associate with a film about a comedy ice cream man. Most films about ice cream men, however, don't usually leave one wanting to go for a little cry immediately afterwards. To be fair, the signs are there from the start: opening with the hero accidentally running over his own cat with his ice cream van, the film starts off dark and frequently returns to that well, no matter how sweet it might be in between.
It's this unexpectedly tender streak which makes protagonist Warren's spiral into delusion and mental disarray all the more affecting. The story recalls such greats as Taxi Driver, Falling Down and Observe and Report, while the humour is along similar lines as (the equally traumatic) Mary and Max and Bad Boy Bubby. There's an odd Spaghetti Western vibe to it too, with its cool score and Warren's (understandable) fixation with Clint Eastwood popping up throughout. It's not afraid to be gruesome or profane, but manages to balance that really well with a sense of humanity and heart. Much of this is anchored onto an impressive performance by Glenn Maynard. Limping, lisping and weird, his Warren could have turned out as the worst of caricatures, but Maynard and the impressive writing by Addison Heath manage to imbue the character with enough layers that it isn't an issue.
After accidentally murdering his pet kitty, the cracks in Warren's shy but good natured persona begin to emerge. Becoming a little too obsessed with soap opera Around the Block, falling foul of a local drug dealer and letting himself get too carried away with a celebrity crush, you can tell that it's not going to end well, but one can't help but hope for the best for poor Warren. Its story recalls the recent Some Guy Who Kills People (which was also about an ice cream man) but director Stuart Simpson has a far better handle on the tone than that film's Jack Perez. The inimitable sense of Australian humour and character no doubt helps – no nation blends horror with tragedy quite like the Aussies. There's no sense of relief or catharsis to Warren's inevitable mental break; it's saddening, unsettling and grim in a way I've never quite seen before.
With its slow pace, lack of action and arthouse characterisation, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla won't be to all tastes. Those who do indulge, however, can be sure of a soft scoop of Aussie black comedy with an unexpectedly sweet centre. Watch it though – its aftertaste packs quite the punch.
Video and Audio:
While undoubtedly made on the cheap side, the film's visuals are crisp and entirely presentable. It sounds a treat too – well-utilising a number of public domain tunes so as to disguise its lack of funds. It's certainly better than the usual trashy soft rock or heavy metal nonsense you'd expect from a straight to DVD feature. The lack of an ice cream van chime is disappointing though.
The DVD release comes with a healthy sprinkling of special features to go with its tasty main course. There's an audio commentary with Simpson, Maynard, Heath and actor Aston Elliot, some good-natured cast and crew interviews, trailers and deleted scenes. The cherry (or flake, depending on your preference) on top? Full episodes of the pretend soap opera Round the Block. Its lampooning of Neighbours and Home and Away is so spot on that they're a genuine chore to watch. Also included is Simpson's fantastic short film Baby Did a Bat Thing, which brings a lot of the energy and action some will feel is missing from the main feature.