Written and directed by Megan Freels Johnston, The Ice Cream Truck, a tense horror-thriller, has a very retro feel even though it’s set in the present. Lots of pastels. That kind of thing. Made me think of the Brady Bunch. I’m thinking that association was intentional.
We’re stuck in the suburbs for the length of the movie, along with our main character, Mary (Deanna Russo), as she waits alone in her newly-purchased house for her husband and children, who are on the other side of the country for a few more days while the kids finish school. The neighbors all have a Stepford Wives kind of vibe to them and there an ice cream truck that’s straight out of the early 60’s driven by an ice cream man who wears a bow tie and serves up murder as well as confectioneries.
The movie is essentially a psychological thriller masquerading as a horror film. There’s paranoia in every frame. Suburban conformity, with all its inherent hypocrisy, is one of the overriding themes, but the big thing here is the fear of predatory men.
Until the end of the film, Mary’s story doesn’t really overlap with the ice cream guy. We do see him kill a few times before the final confrontation, but it’s always peripheral characters who gets offed, someone who’s not connected to the main story arc. This makes it all the more obvious that Mary’s fear is something that lurks in the shadows. Always there, always ready to strike, even as one goes about the task of moving into a neighborhood and setting up a household.
The acting isn’t the best at times, but it’s serviceable. Russo is effective enough as the lead, though her performance is uneven. The writing wasn’t quite as tight as it needed to be, sometimes lingering on the exposition a bit too much. But the ideas at the core of the movie are strong, and it’s an intense thriller. We really can’t help but watch in fascination as the layers of repressed brutality hiding underneath the supposed safety of a suburban bubble, something that’s supposed to shield one from the brutality of the outside world, are peeled away and revealed to be a place of dangerous animalistic violence. Ultimately, The Ice Cream Truck is a hell of an exploration of unconscious fear, and it’s very much worth checking out.
The Ice Cream Truck will arrive in theaters on August 18th.
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