One of the last relics of the video store, I vividly recall coming across the cover to “Ice Cream Man” at least a dozen times and wondered what horror Clint Howard would dole up from the back of a truck. Years later, “Ice Cream Man” has caught on as a surreal and self-aware horror thriller that packs in a lot of gore, grue, and goofy black comedy that makes it a collector’s item. From Jan Michael Vincent shooting a bunch of mental patients, to the Ice Cream Man using Ice Cream as a symbol of his sexual repression and rage, to really bad padding to make one of the child actors look heavy, “Ice Cream Man” has earned its status as a cult classic since video stores shut down permanently.
Gregory has had a hard life. After watching his favorite ice cream man shot down by gangsters, he is sent to the Wishing Well Sanitarium to heal. Years later after being released, he hopes to build his own ice cream business, but he’s having a hard time keeping his psychotic urges at bay. As everything around him builds up to psychotic breaks, he begins to also investigate his neighbors, all of whom have some kind of secret behind their seemingly pristine surface. Along the way, he begins collecting victims to put in to his ice cream while he kidnaps a kid who he connects to. When three of his friends begin looking up Gregory and find out what he’s up to, he goes on the defensive to keep his secret. On the other end, there are two ice cream obsessed cops that are trying to find out Gregory’s secrets.
There’s also some fun use of heads and ice cream cones, and you have to give it to the film as it delivers on the art work doling up a few scenes where Gregory holds detached heads in cones. Director Norman Apstein’s work is quite distinctive because while the film isn’t spectacular in any way, he has a knack for making ice cream look disgusting. The way he photographs the desert makes every scene where someone is chowing down on it look gross, and it only adds to the icky aesthetic and perverse nature of Gregory’s murderous habits. This is the quintessential Clint Howard role as he plays every moment of Gregory with incredible enthusiasm, and he knows how to flip the character from tragic to menacing without menacing a single beat.
Howard contributes to the film’s inherent self-awareness and it’s a shame the movie never grabbed a sequel or two. The final scene is so laugh out loud funny, that I wouldn’t have minded a follow up. Barnone, “Ice Cream Man” is one of the more entertaining horror movies to come out of the 1990’s.
Limited to 2,500 copies, Vinegar Syndrome allows for a wonderful deluxe release for “Ice Cream Man” with a pretty excellent slip cover that features distinct cover art. Within the box is also what makes the money worth it. There’s a commentary with director Norman Apstein. The pièce de résistance is “Monstervision Summer School Edition with Joe Bob Briggs” the full TNT Network “Monstervision” debut of “Ice Cream Man” with host Joe Bob Briggs interviewing Clint Howard in front of his classroom of film goers. Clint Howard, as “guest lecturer,” discusses in depth the making of the movie, his career, working with Roger Corman, and his work on “Evilspeak.” This is a wonderful addition for “Monstervision” fans, and is featured in HD with Briggs’ excellent comedic shtick.
There’s a nineteen minute interview with Howard discussing a lot of the same information from the aforementioned segments, and he discusses the weird tone of “Ice Cream Man,” and the disappointment by him that the movie is a weird mix of a kids film and a horror movie. He’s not wrong. There’s an interview with director Apstein who is less positive about the movie, explaining how the movie overwhelmed him, working with a small budget and schedule, and his unhappiness with the film’s obvious mistakes including the bland score. Even less positive is the interview with David M. Goldstein who calls the movie a “piece of crap,” mourning all the lost money on the production. He also bluntly discusses Jan Michael Vincent’s alcoholism on set, and how the film was so miserable, he gave up producing movies forever. Finally, there’s a still gallery with publicity photos and the like.