Mary (Deanna Russo) is a married woman with two kids. It's her first day at a new home, the move brought about by the relocation of her husband's workplace. The area is known to her, coincidentally the place where she spent her childhood years.
Her first interaction is with the neighbourhood ice cream man (Emil Johnsen), who appears friendly and waves to her. She's feeling a bit uneasy, having chosen to come alone to sort out business with the removal men while the rest of her family spend a final few days in the city. And of course, a new house means new neighbours to whom she must introduce herself.
After a child sprays her with a water gun, she quickly becomes acquainted with next door resident Jessica (Hilary Barraford) and they have a very long, very awkward conversation about nothing. We get the impression that Mary isn't a sociable person, or perhaps something is bothering her that she hasn't yet shared.
The house currently being furnished by a downright weird removal guy (Jeff Daniel Phillips), Mary is greeted at the door by Jessica again, bringing with her two other locals. The ladies, all with big bubbly smiles, invite her to the graduation party of one woman's teenage son, the very handsome Max (John Redlinger), happening that night. Obviously reluctant, she is eventually reasoned with and decides 'what the hell', and the three neighbours go off happy and excited.
She walks through the street in the evening nervously when she happens upon Max and his girlfriend Tracy. More easily convinced here than with the ladies a few hours ago, all three sneak off from the nearby party to have chitchat and smoke weed.
Meanwhile, the local ice cream man is stalking the streets in his van, aimlessly it seems, but of course we know something's not right. Tracy stays behind to finish her drink while Max and Mary make their way to his parents' little do, and this ends badly when the van stops before her, she is enticed into picking a flavour to try, and next thing you know, her throat is slit and the emotionless killer drives off again.
The next morning, Tracy hasn't been found (obviously) and people are getting worried. As if Mary wasn't unnerved as it is, the villainous ice cream man is soon to cause more terror...
Megan Freels Johnston's THE ICE CREAM TRUCK caught my attention from the very first shot, with its extended length generating suspense and the superbly creepy score evoking Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (1978). Following shots of various nearby houses are innocent to the eye but succeed in causing intrigue; what dangers could be facing this place, I wondered.
If I had to describe this film in one word, it would be 'weird'. Yes, Johnston's film is completely strange, unexplained and just unconcernedly bizarre. The atmosphere is resultantly thick throughout, never allowing us to have even a minute of calm, the tension always present in one way or another.
Neighbourhood locals are, again, weird. We are offered no reason for this, not for a single person, but I liked it that way. The characters really creeped me out. Suspense in this film is so tightly considered that every little element, from the music and script to the acting and setting, plays a role in ensuring maximum unease.
The quirky, retro score by Michael Boateng is another fine asset. Frequent returns of the ice cream truck jingle (even at times when he was nowhere to be seen) were chilling.
THE ICE CREAM TRUCK is available VOD from August 18th. An online screener was provided for reviewing purposes while a physical release date is uncertain at this time.
A slasher with focus and restraint; infrequent profanity, next to no nudity (you get a shirtless lad and a woman's thigh) and gore not soaking the screen every 5 minutes; THE ICE CREAM TRUCK is a fine example of fear through tension and the unknown. It is not a fun film, but it's not too grim either. It's pure discomfort from beginning to end, and I loved it.
More like this, please.
Review by Elliott Moran
|Directed by Megan Freels Johnston|