No one'll scream for ICE CREAM MAN, which squanders a decent idea for a chiller-comedy with its uncertain, uneven approach.
As a child, Gregory Tudor saw his favorite ice-cream man gunned down in a drug-related shooting; as an adult (Clint Howard) he's taken up the vocation, but has the nasty habit of mixing human parts in his sweet treats. A group of local kids who call themselves "The Rocketeers"--Johnny (Justin
Isfeld), Heather (Anndi McAfee), Tuna (Jojo Adams), and Small Paul (Mikey Lebeau)--become suspicious of Gregory, who appears to have killed their friend Roger (Zachary Benjamin). Tuna witnesses Gregory kidnapping Small Paul and finds Roger alive and scared in the woods. The kids go to the police,
who search Gregory's store but find nothing to incriminate him.
The Rocketeers set out to gather evidence of Gregory's misdeeds, even as the evil ice-cream man appears to be grooming Small Paul as his protege. Gregory goes on a killing spree, murdering relatives of the children and a couple of cops before taking off after the kids, who end up dispatching
Gregory in his own ice cream mixer. Roger rejoins his friends, taking the place of Small Paul, who has been left deranged by his experiences.
Clearly, a horror film about a murderous ice-cream man needs to be played for laughs, and there are some points at which this movie achieves an effective balance of bizarre comedy and shock effects. But while director Norman Apstein's attempts at a surreal, child's-eye point of view are promising,
his abilities aren't up to his ambitions, and too much of the movie rates as ineffectively peculiar, particularly a gratuitous sequence in which two cops visit Gregory's old asylum and find that the inmates have taken over. While Apstein has an eye for oddball visuals, his storytelling becomes
incoherent in the second half, going off on odd tangents when it should be tightening the tension.
In the title role, Howard (who specializes in offbeat B-movie parts in between roles in his brother Ron's movies) has some fun, nasty moments, but is too often hamstrung by the filmmakers' uncertainty as to whether he should be viewed as a figure of fun or fright. The youthful leads are
convincing, while the semi-name adult supporting actors add more to the movie's rental allure than they do to the film itself. The makeup effects are pretty good, though the movie aims more for gross-outs than true frights; even without the human eyeballs and roaches squirming in it, ice cream has
never looked more unappetizing than it does here.(Graphic violence, sexual situations, adult situations, profanity.)
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