DIRECTOR: Megan Freels Johnston
WRITER: Megan Freels Johnston
Jeff Daniel Phillips
Bailey Anne Borders
Declan Michael Laird
When Mary moves back to her small suburban hometown, she is planning a new life with her husband. While her husband is away on business, Mary plans on setting up their new house in preparation for his return. It's when her nosey neighbours begin prying, and she starts up a sexual relationship with a good-looking young gardener. Her situation goes from bad to worse when a serial killer driving an ice cream truck starts murdering the residents and comes after herself.
When I first heard about The Ice Cream Truck, it was when the fantastic first poster debuted online. The poster featured an ice cream truck that was melting into blood. That was enough to peak my interest in this film. Then, I heard the director Megan Freels Johnston on the Dread Central Brainwaves podcast talking about the movie. I knew then and there that I had to give this film a watch. I love what she had to say about the horror genre and what she wanted to bring to the screen.
On the podcast, Megan Freels Johnston talked about how she always writes for the characters first. It's character development than the horror. After watching The Ice Cream Truck, I believe what she has to say. I think that a lot of horror fanatics who are looking for a scary and gory horror film about some serial-killing ice cream man will be disappointed with what's on offer here. The story does indeed feature a killer ice cream man. But this almost borders on a slow-burn, dark, horror comedy.
First and foremost, what I enjoyed about The Ice Cream Truck was how much I liked our main final girl. She isn't the perfect housewife. She's an incredibly flawed person. This movie features a sub-plot where our main character is cheating on her husband with the young, hot gardener. It takes balls to make an audience want to sympathise with a woman who is having an extramarital affair while her husband is away. I really enjoyed that she was written this way as it made me like her character even more at the end of the film.
Another element of the film that I enjoyed was the aesthetic. The entire movie takes place in the suburbs. I loved the look of this small town Americana. I think that they managed to capture that incredibly well here. This is a very low-budget movie, but I think that they got the most out of the setting here. If I could give this a compliment, at times, I got this almost dream-like quality from the way this film showed suburbia. This felt almost like the director may have been inspired by David Lynch and the way he likes to show us this dark, seedy, underbelly of Americana.
Now the issues that I had with The Ice Cream Truck fall back on the story and writing. I'm okay with not knowing the backstory on our killer or villain. It can make things a little bleaker and darker for that character. It leaves us with that mystery. I think with this film; I wanted to see why this killer was murdering the neighbours. Sadly, we get absolutely nothing, and it sort of makes no sense by the time the film wraps up. They could have had our lead character, and the killer have a history, but they sadly don't do anything with it. He's just driving around and killing people. It may have provided more tension had they given them a past.
The acting is also somewhat hit and miss. Deanna Russo as our final girl is the saving grace of the movie. She's talented enough and carries this entire film on her capable shoulders. Emil Johnsen as the ice cream man is weird and kooky enough. Sadly, he's not at all menacing. He has the look of a killer, but his performance isn't scary. It just comes across as incredibly awkward. The rest of the cast for me mostly feel or come across like first-time actors. Not that this is a huge problem or anything, but it makes a lot of the performances feel very amateurish.
When it comes to the scares and suspense, I think that The Ice Cream Truck has this weird and awkward sort of tone to it. The story rides between horror and a really odd type of comedy. I think with the acting, I found it to be almost strange as mentioned above. Things felt very out of place at times, and it may have been the intention all along, but for me, the tonal shifts between the horror and comedy just didn't always mesh very well together. It felt like one was cancelling the other out when they were both most important.
Lastly, we come to the blood and gore. This movie contains enough bloodshed that it should keep horror fans happy. It's one of the better elements of this film. We have a scene involving a milkshake maker that felt very inspired by the blender scene in the excellent You're Next. We have a ton of violence and gore that includes people being stabbed to death with an array of cutlery and utensils. It's not exactly disturbing, but the violence is handled well enough that I enjoyed myself with The Ice Cream Truck.
DEATH TOLL: 5
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A woman's throat is slashed.
- A man is repeatedly stabbed in the stomach.
- A woman is repeatedly stabbed in the head with an ice-cream scoop.
- A man is stabbed in the hand and head with a butcher's knife.
- A woman uses a milkshake maker to bore into someone's skull.
Going into The Ice Cream Truck, I wasn't sure what to expect with this movie. I went into this expecting a pretty dark slasher about a murderous ice cream man. While we get that element. This film is almost dream-like in its display of suburbia and the idea of that Americana. With a solid and likeable final girl, some twists on the slasher, and a lovely aesthetic. I enjoyed this more than I didn't. Is it perfect? No. This film could have fleshed out a lot of the characters, given us backstories, or tied things together better. The tonal shifts also feel bizarre in certain scenes. The story feels awkward as it swings between comedy and horror. Still, it's a lot better than a lot of the slashers in its price range. Worth a once off watch.