THE ICE CREAM TRUCK (2017)
Flick finds pretty, married mom Mary (Deanna Russo) moving from Seattle back to her old suburban neighborhood. She’s arrived a week ahead of her family to get the house ready while the kids finish school. Mary suddenly realizes this is the first time she’s had to herself in over a decade and plans to enjoy it. Two things, though, impact Mary’s return to suburban living and “me” time…the tempting advances of her neighbor’s hunky teenage son, Max (John Redlinger) and a creepy ice cream man (Emil Johnsen) who has taken notice of the new woman on the block.
The Ice Cream Truck is written and directed by Megan Freels Johnston who successfully mixes the two stories of a woman reconnecting with herself and a slasher stalking an unsuspecting neighborhood. She gives us a likable heroine in Mary who is having trouble readjusting to suburban life and the nosey, eccentric, judgmental, neighbors she’s surrounded by. Being a wife and mother for so long, she has a chance to unwind and is certainly tempted by Max, her pot smoking, well-built neighbor’s son who has taken an interest in the pretty older woman. In the midst of Mary’s self proclaimed “reconnecting with her youth” there is the creepy ice cream man stalking the neighborhood and killing anyone who doesn’t follow his old fashioned sensibilities. Johnston does a good job having these stories run parallel to each other till it’s time they collide when Mary and the creepy confections vendor face-off. Johnston has a very interesting visual style and her shot composition does evoke John Carpenter at times as did Michael Boateng ‘s very 80’s/Carpenter-esque score. There is tension and we are certainly unnerved when the ice cream man is onscreen. The kills are bloody but routine, though they aren’t the point. This isn’t a gore flick. On another level, we also watch the tale of a woman simply enjoying being a little frisky for a few days and that works too. If the film falters a bit, it is in first, the confrontation between Mary and the psychotic ice cream vendor is far too short and over before it has time to have impact. The other is the “wait…what?” ending. Without giving away any details, it seems to imply that much of what we just saw might have been in Mary’s head. It undos some of what we just witnessed and makes us wonder if writer Mary was just daydreaming a little excitement, letting her imagination run a bit wild, to relieve the boredom of waiting for her family to arrive. Either way, it does’t have the impact it was probably intended to have, though does set up a potential sequel and Mary was a strong enough character that we would’t mind seeing more of her experiences in surreal suburbia.
As Mary actress Deanna Russo really nails it in what is basically her show. She presents us with a woman who has lived for others for far too long and now suddenly has a chance to cut loose a bit, smoke some pot, have the house to herself and enjoy that she has the attention of a much younger man. And what makes this work is that Russo doesn’t play her like the stereotypical MILF, she is a little awkward and has a bit of a sarcastic sense of humor, but is naturally pretty and has a sexuality to her that is just part of her personality and not something forced. She’s just being herself and is naturally sexy, especially when she starts to let herself enjoy Max’s attention. The two have a chemistry on screen and the scenes of high school grad Max’s awkward seduction attempts do crackle with a sexual tension. Credit to actor Redlinger here, too as the object of Mary’s temptations. Russo also makes a good final girl…and it was refreshing to have one that wasn’t a high school or college girl…though, these moments were far too short to really enjoy. As stated, John Redlinger did a good job as the infatuated Max and he was charming and one could understand how his awkward attempts at getting in Mary’s pants, could actually be a bit endearing to a lonely older woman looking to feel not so mom-like for a bit. Finally we have Emil Johnsen who is properly unnerving as the ice cream man. Not much info is given and we have no idea of his true motives, but he presents a very creepy dude and he is chilling in his scenes. The flick also has an appearance by Rob Zombie regular Jeff Daniel Phillips as a creepy delivery man. Poor Mary seems to be a magnet for creepy dudes, as well as, high school hunks.
Overall, this was an interesting mix of slasher flick and drama of a woman trying to reconnect with her youthfulness and sexuality. This ties in well as bad behavior is usually what attracts slashers in the classic format, so it works here. Megan Freels Johnston appears to be a filmmaker to keep an eye on with some very impressive shot framing and imbuing the film with some nice atmosphere both as a slasher and a tale of a fish out of water in oddball suburbia cutting loose much to her neighbors’ chagrin. The flick may have stumbled in it’s last scene and with not letting it’s confrontation between Mary and maniac play out a bit longer, but it is an enjoyable little movie and hopefully a sign that Megan Freels Johnston might be someone to watch out for in the future.
3 ice cream trucks.