THE ICE CREAM TRUCK
Director: Megan Freels Johnston
Written by: Megan Freels Johnston
Cast: Deanna Russo, Emil Johnsen, John Redlinger, Sam Schweikert, Hilary Barraford, Bailey Anne Borders
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 8/8/17
Opens: August 18, 2017
Just as the murder numbers edge up in Chicago and Baltimore, you might expect people there to dream about moving out of urban jungles into nice, middle-class suburbs—great places for kids to grow up as well. Writer-director Megan Freels Johnston, might give them pause. In “The Ice Cream Truck, she continues her look at the anxiety women face when in new situations, in the current case that of a woman who spends several anxious days alone in a new suburban house while waiting for her husband and two kids to return from Seattle. (Her previous movie, “Rebound,” hones in on a mental break of a woman who discovers that the love of her life is cheating on her, then travels the country meeting hostile strangers.)
“The Ice Cream Truck” starts as a parody of bourgeois suburban life, then unfolds as a slasher movie, a psychological thriller if you will, and succeeds on both levels. It has the scares you expect from such a thriller and best of all a dazzling performance by Deanna Russo as Mary, a woman whose anxiety is almost a male fantasy of an attractive female who finds it hard to cope even for a few days without her man.
Mary regrets the loss of fun that she should have had during her high-school days, as she married young, had one child, and chose not only to give up a potential career but most of all her fantasy of pot smoking and making out with boys her age. After meeting her mundane neighbors and attending a party where she is hit on by a weirdo, she meets an eighteen-year-old fellow, Max (John Redlinger), who has a steady girlfriend but appears attracted to her. What she didn’t count on, however, was that even the most pristine neighborhood could harbor a homicidal maniac or two; in her case, the furniture mover who simply refused to head back to his truck after making a delivery, and the driver of an old-fashioned ice cream truck (Emily Johnsen), whose hobby is to lure unsuspecting customers into his truck and deliver cuts of a knife along with vanilla shakes and chocolate cones.
My understanding of the term “horror film” is that a supernatural element must be present—an octopus crawling out of a person’s stomach, a monster created by a machine, a dinosaur the size of New York’s Chrysler Building creating havoc on Broadway. There’s nothing supernatural here (or is there?) so let’s call it a slasher movie that concentrates on the sexy meetings between Mary and a forward and horny eighteen-year-old Max, who has as much interest in a woman old enough to be his mother as in her own significant other. It takes a short time for Max to realize Mary’s eagerness to embrace the years of her life that she missed by marrying too young. And she can certainly be fooled by a clean-cut ice cream man who might have come out of the 1950s but who has interests going beyond making a few bucks on a shake.
The pace is slow, nice and slow I should add, as Stephen Tringali, the photographer, uses his lenses to make love with close-ups of the beautiful Deanna Russo. Some minor roles add greatly to the tension, such as that of the furniture delivery man (Jeff Daniel Phillips) who sees a woman alone in a big house and wants to cure her loneliness, and the Stepford Wives types at a party that introduces the new neighbor to a bourgeois community.
Unrated. 88 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Comments, readers? Agree? Disagree? Why?
Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+