Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ice Cream Man (1995)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

As a child, a young Gregory Tudor awaits the arrival of the Ice Cream Man one day. Gregory is seconds away from receiving his daily cold treat, but the Ice Cream Man is murdered after a drive by shooting in front of Gregory. Unable to handle the trauma of witnessing the death of his hero, Gregory is sent to the Wishing Well Sanatorium for treatment.

As an adult, Gregory (Clint Howard) returns to the same neighborhood he grew up in as a child to continue the legacy of his idol as the new Ice Cream Man. Nurse Wharton (Olivia Hussey) took care of Gregory as one of her favorites in the sanatorium, and as Gregory’s landlord/legal guardian, Nurse Wharton protects Gregory at all costs. But Gregory isn’t the same innocent child anymore. Too many years in the sanatorium transformed Gregory into a bloodthirsty maniac, and instead of adding chocolate chips, peanut butter cups, or hunks of brownies to his ice cream, Gregory stuffs his tasty treats with body parts from people, insects, and the mangled corpse of a dog.

Against their parents wishes, three children named Tuna (JoJo Adams), Heather (Anndi McAfee), and Johnny (Justin Isfeld) take it upon themselves to investigate Gregory’s peculiar lifestyle.  Heather tries to outsmart her strict father, Reverend Langley (David Warner), and Johnny has to endure some bullying from his big brother, Jacob (Karl Makinen), but the trio runs into a bigger problem, when Gregory kidnaps Small Paul (Mikey LeBeau), another friend in the group, one night. Detective Maldwyn (Lee Majors II) and Detective Gifford (Jan-Michael Vincent) suspect something fishy after a brief encounter with Gregory, and they’ll have to work with the kids to save Small Paul’s life before it’s too late.

Howard’s parody performance of an unhinged loon is good for a few cheap laughs, but the majority of the supporting cast is mediocre at best. LeBeau is spot on as the geeky outcast, but the rest? Nothing special at all. Majors is just going through the motions as the clueless member of the duo, Makinen is the generic douchey big brother, and Isfeld’s Johnny is supposed to the “cool kid” in the group. Warner is the other recognizable name from this cast, but he’s limited to a forgettable and dull character, as the self-righteous and delusional preacher.

Honestly, I don’t get the cult following for Ice Cream Man. Yeah, I know most horror fans won’t  hesitate to give this one the B-Movie pass, but I’m not one of them. Sorry, but Ice Cream Man has one too many legit problems to ignore for my taste.

My biggest pet peeve for Ice Cream Man? The tone of this film is too confusing. Anyone remember Goosebumps? For those who don’t know, Goosebumps was a popular horror anthology TV series for kids based on the books by R.L. Stine, and I LOVED this show as a kid (I was also a big fan of the books). Anyway, each Goosebumps episode was based on a book, and for those who know anything about the Goosebumps TV series and the books,  Goosebumps was horror for kids with a lighter and more comedic take. Very campy most of the time, and from what I remember, not too much or no blood at all.

Why am I using Goosebumps as an example? Because I got the feeling I was watching an episode of Goosebumps with adult themes. In Ice Cream Man, you’ll see a husband cheating on his wife with a scantily clad and promiscuous woman, sex photos, and lots of blood and gore. That doesn’t sound like an episode of Goosebumps, right? Well, there’s a cast of kids here, and they’re trying to solve the mystery of  a bogeyman-esque character as sleuths.

Yeah, that sounds like an episode of Goosebumps, but Goosebumps never featured infidelity, and noticeable blood and gore. The mash-up of hokey ridiculousness and gruesome horror didn’t work for me, because Ice Cream Man tries too hard on both sides, and I was burnt on the goofy stuff after twenty-five minutes. The worst example of mixing gruesome horror with stupid comedy? Somehow, Gregory manages to stick a victim’s severed head inside a BIG waffle cone. I tried, but I could not laugh at this scene no matter what.

Ice Cream Man is loaded with a number of eye rolling moments. One that sticks out is Detective Maldwyn eating one of Gregory’s “special” ice cream cones. The ice cream cone contains a few scoops of ice cream…. and an eyeball. There’s a close-up shot of Maldwyn’s mouth as he’s eating the cone,  and unknowingly, Maldwyn is playing around with the eyeball in front of his teeth. Seriously? Maldwyn and Gifford visit Wishing Well Sanatorium to dig up some dirt on Gregory, and EVERYONE in the sanatorium (including the staff) is hopped up on medication and completely nuts. Maldwyn and Gifford are running away from an angry horde. Maldwyn is running with a sense of urgency, and while Maldwyn is waiting at the car, Gifford is casually walking, while a large group of deranged patients follow him?

First, I’m pretty sure if I had a freakin’ eyeball in my mouth, I would be able to taste/feel it, and spit it out immediately. Second, I know I’m watching a movie, but you’re being chased by a group of deranged nutcases, and you casually stroll to the car? Sorry, but that doesn’t work for me. Again, I know I’m watching a movie, but Ice Cream Man pushes the suspension of disbelief  limits too far.

Ice Cream Man was chore to sit through, and the creepy box cover fooled me into believing I might enjoy this one. Well, I was wrong. I tried, but Ice Cream Man didn’t click with me. There’s a semi-creepy shot of Small Paul playing with a bucket of ice cream inside a sanatorium after he murders Gregory to close the film. It’s an attempt at foreshadowing for Small Paul as the next ice cream killer, because for a while, Gregory trusted Small Paul as his apprentice. But this cliffhanger didn’t do anything for me, because I don’t have the slightest urge for a sequel. Clint Howard is good for a few cheap laughs, the black and white prologue is a nice nostalgic treat, and I appreciate the wink to One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). There’s a scene, where Maldwyn refers to “That Cuckoo movie” during a scene at the sanatorium. Cool moment.

Still, Ice Cream Man is an awful film. Ice Cream Man is a mess of laughable production values, poor writing, inconsistent tones, an overall mediocre cast, pitiful campy humor, and lame jokes. It’s a shame, because Ice Cream Man features a fun premise for the horror comedy sub-genre, and with a better screenplay, director, and overall cast, Ice Cream Man could’ve been a much better film. Maybe I’ll have a change of heart on a second viewing, but for now, I’ll remember Ice Cream Man as an avoidable abomination.

Rating: 2/10

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