The Ice Cream Truck Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Uncork'd Entertainment
Written and directed by Megan Freels Johnston
2017, 96 minutes, Not Rated
Released on August 18th, 2017
Deanna Russo as Mary
Emil Johnsen as The Ice Cream Man
John Redlinger as Max
Hilary Barraford as Jessica
Lisa Ann Walter as Christina
LaTeace Town Cuellar as Katie
Jeff Daniel Phillips as The Delivery Man
The suburbs are weird, y’all. That gets overlooked by so many of us, but it’s an undeniable fact. There are nosy neighbors, awkward barbecues where the freaks living around you get way too drunk, and young people behaving badly while the adults wish they were still young. The thing is that many of us have gone blind to it because we’re too close to it on a daily basis.
Clearly, director Megan Freels Johnston (Rebound) has NOT gone blind to it. I dare say she has as much to say about the ‘burbs as Stephen King does about small-town Yankee life.
Mary (Deanna Russo, TV’s Being Human andGossip Girl) is a freelance writer who’s just moved to the suburbs (presumably somewhere in the Pacific Northwest) to await the arrival of her husband and two children. Next-door neighbor, Jessica (Hilary Barraford), is over-the-top nosy and just the beginning of the weirdness. Before you can blink, Jessica has brought more of “the girls” to invite Mary to a high school graduation party for Max (John Redlinger, Banshee) while Mary is having her furniture delivered by a sleazy and menacing delivery man (Jeff Daniel Phillips, Rob Zombie’s 31). It’s not long until she’s smoking pot and contemplating going full cougar with the new graduate. And what’s up with that old-fashioned uber-creep/mega-dork in the titular throwback ice cream truck?
My hackles were raised by The Ice Cream Truck from the word “go”. There’s a weirdness and a sense of unreality from the first scene that never lets up. Have you ever watched a movie where you just know (in almost instinctive fashion) that the rug is about to pulled out from under you? The expression is “waiting for the other shoe to drop”, I believe. That shoe doesn’t drop until nearly the final frame. Once it does you are going to have either one of two reactions: a slow clap (either literal or figurative; your choice) or a loud and hearty, “What the fuck?! REALLY?!”
It’s a slow clap with some oomph behind it for my money. That sense of unreality I mentioned earlier? That comes from the intelligence with which this was written, but it will take you a minute to really appreciate it. There’s a solid reason for how off everything around her feels and how out of it she is through the duration. You’ll (obviously) have to watch it to see what I mean and see what camp (Team Slow Clap or Team What the Fuck) you fall into.
You didn’t think I was going to spoil it for you, did you?
Still, there are some pacing issues in the occasionally stilted dialogue. I really like Deanna Russo in Being Human, but the long pauses in dialogue serve less as tone setter than clumsy ambience breaker and don’t really represent her best work (though she looks gorgeous as always). The final shot didn’t make much sense to me at first, but upon further analysis I get it. Again, The Ice Cream Truck will ask you to both think a little AND suspend your disbelief for a good reason. That suspension of disbelief brings me to my biggest issue – that of the Ice Cream Man himself.
The performance by Emil Johnsen was appropriately threatening in that “you’ve got to watch out for the quiet, nerdy ones” kind of way. However, this guy didn’t seem like he would really be all that difficult to stop. The kills are reasonably well shot and effective, but he’s just not going to get you with the element of surprise. His creepiness already has you on edge (a credit to his performance and belief in the character); unfortunately, it would’ve been more effective to have him be disarmingly charming (à la Ted Bundy) than already coming off as bugshit looney (à la Jack Nicholson in The Shining). In short, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to fear this guy.
Kudos to securing that badass old ice cream truck and for the manner of the final kill. Both score some style points and allow it to finish on a high note. That’s the phrase I’m looking for here – style. The Ice Cream Truck is a bit of a thinker with a hefty dose of style where it counts and a misleading trailer (an all-too common problem today).