Ice Cream Truck, The (2017)

Starring Deanna Russo, Emil Johnsen, John Redlinger

Directed by Megan Freels Johnston


When I first had the opportunity of reviewing director Megan Freels Johnston’s Rebound back in 2014, I was made aware that she was the granddaughter of novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard, but I had no clue of how much of his storytelling ability she had inherited. Needless to say, I was impressed with her debut film, and I’m loving her follow-up presentation, The Ice Cream Truck, and trust me when I say, if you hated those damn eerie tunes played over a frozen dairy treat vehicle’s speakers in the past, you haven’t seen anything yet.

This slightly mind-bending thriller takes place in a small suburban town, complete with well-manicured lawns and overly nosy neighbors, and it’s where Mary (Russo) and her family are moving into a new home. The gist here is that Mary is actually returning to her old stomping grounds, and she’s patiently (ahem) awaiting the arrival of her husband and two kids – small details to be hammered out when daddy’s job requires relocation, but that’s all in the rearview mirror. So here’s Mary, all by herself in this nice big undecorated home, and her initial welcoming is a bit on the odd side, complete with over-imbibing housewives, a very creepy mover (Jeffrey Daniel Phillips) and a young teen boy (Redlinger) all too happy to aid Mary with her…yard work, if you will. Aside from these distractions, she’s somewhat in tune with how the new dynamic is playing out, but something about the old (new) neighborhood just doesn’t seem copacetic. Did you all hear that? There it is again – it’s the ice cream man and that friggin’ creepy music, blaring from his loudspeaker as he rolls down the street, peddling his frigid delights.

The man with the apron and scoop is Emil Johnsen, and he delivers an intently stoic, yet amazingly unsettling performance as the guy who’ll smile as he takes your order, then remain placid as your blood soaks his all-white threads. He kills with unknown intent, and while his slayings are a bit on the tepid side, it’s still the inclination of a severely demented soul patrolling the streets, dispatching innocent folk who come looking for decadence with their dessert. What makes this film work so well is that Johnston doesn’t hang her hat on one particular format, instead forming a story around this tiny region of town, and using the actions of others to assist in the conveyance of the tale. Will lonely Mary be tempted by her smooth-talking young yard-employee? Is there a concrete motive other than complete insanity for the murders committed by the ice cream man…and just when in the blue hell are Mary’s family planning on arriving in town? These are all questions that beg for answers, and although the film does walk you through the day-to-day a bit lethargically, it’s all for the betterment of the plot. Russo is solid in her role of the austere mother, yet she plays a woman who looks as if she needs to break out for her own sanity. Both Johnsen and Phillips (in a far too brief role) are fantastic at depicting guys you’d want to douse yourself in turpentine after meeting them – well casted, indeed.

At the end of it all, I can absolutely recommend The Ice Cream Truck for those wanting a little suburban mystique and murder in their diet…but please, don’t ask the guy behind the wheel if you can hop in the back and pick out a flavor – BAD IDEA.

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Matt Boiselle

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