Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ice Cream Man (1995)(Minor Spoilers Review)

**This review contains MINOR spoilers, no plot twists, major reveals, or character deaths**

After witnessing an unforgettable tragedy as a child, a young Gregory Tudor is sent to Wishing Well Sanatorium. As an adult, Gregory (Clint Howard) returns to his neighborhood as the local ice cream man to honor his childhood idol. 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 dogs.

Three children named Tuna (JoJo Adams), Johnny (Justin Isfeld), and Heather (Anndi McAfee) form a friendly trio, and together, they embark on a mission to stop Gregory with help from Detective Maldwyn (Lee Majors II) and Detective Gifford (Jan-Michael Vincent). Heather tries to outsmart her strict father, Reverend Langley (David Werner), and Johnny has to endure some bullying from his big brother, Jacob (Karl Makinen).

The group is forced to overcome the hurdle of Nurse Wharton (Olivia Hussey), Gregory’s nurse at the sanatorium, and Nurse Wharton protects Gregory as his legal guardian/landlord. And the hunt for Gregory takes an unexpected turn, when Small Paul (Mikey LeBeau), another child and a friend of the trio, suddenly disappears……….

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. The production values are noticeably poor, the writing is pedestrian at best, and overall, the performances are unbearable. 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, 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.

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. 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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