MR ICE CREAM MAN
Director: Mack Hail
Year of release: It's a little unclear but the IMDB says 1996.
Country of origin: USA (I think)
Running time: 65 minutes though DVD case & IMDB say 85 minutes.
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: This is something of an oddity of a film apparently shot in the early to mid-nineties but not actually released on DVD until much later. On top of this it clocks in at just over an hour in length so it’s most definitely on the short side without much in the way of plot. I’m not completely sure but there may be a longer cut of the film in existence as on the back of the box (and on the IMDB) it claims to be 85 minutes long but it turns out to be some 20 minutes shorter than this at least in it’s PAL European format. Possibly there’s a longer NTSC version floating around but if so it seems even more rare than version I’m looking at here.
For what passes for a story we have a town plagued by number of child disappearances which prompts a policeman to visit the local high school. After giving a lecture on the danger of strangers he proceeds to issue each kid with a whistle to blow in case of an emergency. It’s not a spoiler to say that what the police don’t realise is that the disappearances, (presumably murders), are in fact the work of the town’s ice cream man who by nature of his job has wormed his way into the good graces of the towns children. Not sharing this affection however is young Joey who sees something more sinister in the ice cream vender. Joey plays a key role in events as they unfold as his birthday arrives culminating in a slumber party at his home which of course attracts the killers attention. Joey’s elder sister Samantha and the aforementioned police officer are then faced with attempting to keep the kids safe.
Good points: *The ice cream man is played by Mack Hail (both the writer and director) and he’s just about passable as the villain terrorising the neighbourhood. His acting is rather wooden and stilted but this is done on purpose I think to give the guy an emotionless monotone vibe. It works reasonably well though and though a cheesy character there is a sinister creepy edge to him as well. Obviously with him being an ice cream man dealing with the public there is no mask but he does wear a white outfit complete with hat similar to what ice cream vendors perhaps wore in the “good old days” or maybe it’s what these figures normally wear even today in America. It’s better than nothing anyway and gives him a fairly unique look.
*For a brief minute or two things take on a heavy Halloween influence with shots of the central trio of young kids making their way home by way of tree lined streets lined with white picket fence style houses. In particular this is notable as the camera tracks the female member of the group who is last to make her way home. It’s something commented on in the review over on the HudsonLee/Vegan Vorhees site and it’s easily one of the highlights. It’s a little homage that conjours up fond memories of Haddonfield.
*Several of the central characters are likeable mostly the young child Joey who unlike the rest of the kids is not overbearing or obnoxious. Far from being annoying or precocious as is often the case with children in horror films this little guy comes across as a nice, sensible and thoughtful kid. His older sister Samantha and the local lawman Hailey are up to an acceptable standard in their roles as well. They’re inoffensive and likeable enough despite being hampered by some bad dialogue.
Bad Points: *There’s next to nothing going on by way of special effects with the deaths being relatively gore free. All the deaths in fact cut away before we see what properly happens to the victim so they’re very disappointing. In addition to this the body count is also too low, like super low. A few extra kills would have helped without a doubt. Like I said there is perhaps an extended version floating around which may feature more killings but if it is just limited to what I saw here then it’s scant fare.
*Very minor spoiler: When Roland is being chased by the truck it changes from day to night too quickly. As fat as he was there would be no way he could keep running for more than a few minutes let alone however long it would take to turn from afternoon to dusk/evening.
*Joey stands out as being likeable but unfortunately the same can’t be said for the aforementioned Roland. This Roland kid is ridiculously over the top not only in actions but also in appearance. Though he appears to be in the same class as the other kids he’s about three times bigger as well as being a hunchback. Add to this an incredibly weird personality where he came across as having mental deficiencies and you have all the makings of a very annoying character. Good for a quick snicker maybe but ultimately way too irritating and unrealistic.
*I thought the script was very poor (verging on the embarrassing even) and just didn’t go into enough detail. This could all be down to the fact that I watched a shortened version of the film as I’ve said previously but going on what I watched there isn’t anywhere near enough put forward to form the back story. Things like how many disappearances/murders had already taken place, if the police had any leads etc were completely glossed over or ignored altogether.
On several occasions the script is extremely amateurish and awkward as well such as the part with the girl in the park insulting the ice cream man and an embarrassing supermarket scene where Officer Hailey asks Samantha out.
Mild spoiler: Joey’s past relating to his parents ends up playing an important role as things go on so it would have been nice to see some flashbacks relating to this which would have added some depth which is otherwise sadly lacking.
*Spoiler: The ending turns out to be pretty rubbish as it doesn’t make it clear if the villain is dead or just unconscious. It also ends on a weird confusing note with someone going into a liquor store leaving a kid outside. I’m really not sure what they were getting at with that or what they were trying to imply. Normally this kind of thing would be done to indicate the bogey-man of the film is back but that wasn’t so much the case here as the ice cream man had nothing to do with alcohol.
Verdict: There really isn’t very much to recommend here with the film being very amateurish in most departments with the script in particular being a major shortcoming. A low body count showcasing the most lacklustre disappointing collection of deaths you could imagine compounds the misery.
It’s not all bad as the ice cream man killer is reasonable , well you’ll see worse anyway and the Joey character is likeable and was deserving of more than the script ultimately gave him. On the whole though this is one to pass over and not bother with.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Child in field: Pounced on as he tried to steal a treat. Body parts later possibly seen in freezer.
2)Young woman from park: Murdered in her room with ice pick.
3)Roland: Is chased by the killer for a lengthy period which ends in the water in a nature reserve where he is presumably killed. Body later found by police.
Note: I’m not counting the ice cream man himself. He was stabbed in the shoulder and then fell down a flight of stairs but it was unclear if he was actually dead or just unconscious.