Mr. Ice Cream Man (2002)
By: Devon B. on March 18, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Dead Alive (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 4:3. English 2.0. 60 minutes
The Movie
Director: Mack Hail
Starring: Mack Hail, James A. Brooks, Jim Mills, Cindy Reed, Henry Weckesser
Screenplay: Mack Hail, Jim Mills
Country: USA
Mr. Ice Cream Man is a shot on video (yay) film featuring the talents of the multi-tasking Mack Hail as a co-writer, director, and star. The film opens with children 'acting.' I'd seen worse than these annoying kids, but still hoped they'd die quickly. No luck, the movie FOCUSES on them.

Two kids are waiting for their friend, but he's still asleep in bed. His alarm goes off and he hops up and announces he's late. I don't know why you'd set an alarm to wake you up after you were already late, but he evidently did. He catches up with his friends, then they're passed by an ice cream truck. Oooh, foreboding. They get to school and some cop gives them the world's worst lecture about street-smart safety because there's been a string of missing children. The cop then hands out VERY cheap looking whistles for the kids to blow if they're in trouble. You'd think from all the big time logos that appear on screen, this movie had corporate funding, but evidently not enough money was given to afford decent blow wear.

So, who could be harming the children? No, it's not a member of the crew hoping to rid the world of juvenile thespians, it's that guy driving the ice cream van from the beginning. And why is the ice cream van man doing such mean things? You'll just have to wait till the end of the film to find out…or read the short as hell yet reveal all synopsis on the back of the DVD box. The epilog was confusing as fuck, but maybe after the film's hour running time my brain had melted like…melted ice cream, and I just couldn't follow it.

Mr. Ice Cream Man is not to be confused with Ice Cream Man, the latter being the Clint Howard vehicle. Hail claimed years back that the Howard film had ripped him off, and I think there was even mention that Howard's film was rushed out to beat the release of Hail's movie. It's was a stupid thing for Hail to claim, because he didn't have the idea of a murderous ice cream truck driver, Todd McFarlane did back in Spawn #5. I wouldn't normally assume that Hail had read the Spawn series, and may not have even connected up the ice cream similarities, but the lead boy has some Spiderman posters, one definitely the cover from McFarlane's Spiderman #1, and the other looked like it might've been a McFarlane as well. Maybe it's just coincidence, and then maybe Bad Religion's next CD will be covers of all their favorite Catholic hymns.

Regrettably, Mr. Ice Cream Man is not the thrilling independent release I'd been lead to believe it was. The lead children's acting is only slightly better than that of the kids in Kiss Daddy Goodbye, and to show how bad child talent can be, there's a finale set at a party with a bunch of ATROCIOUS child actors. The children do make the adults look better, but they're not good either, and anytime the grown ups get an extended scene alone, their lack of ability shines. Even Hail, as the ice creamer, has performance weaknesses, and he's the best of the lot. Hail does convey some menace, at least; if Hugh Laurie lost most of his talent and then played a murderer, it might be like this. Once I realized that, I was like, 'Hey, Hugh Laurie should play a murderer,' and everyone I said it to was like, 'Don't be stupid. Hugh Laurie can't act.' But now he's starred in House, hopefully all those people figured out how stupid and wrong they were to disagree with me.

Mr. Ice Cream Man is not necessarily poorly directed, and there are some interesting images, most featuring Hail on screen. Quicker paced cuts seemed to be beyond the editors grasp, however, and they can let down the film and sometimes mess up continuity. Someone did like the only adult victim's breasts, though, making sure to cut to a jolting close up of them simply to show that she really was nude. Problems are to be expected in a low budget film, but scripting doesn't cost more than the paper drafts are printed on, and the writing is where Mr. Ice Cream Man fails.

Forget the fact that when writing this, Hail and Jim Mills didn't consider that mainly featuring children was a bad idea, there's plenty of other shit to get mad about. The cop gives the ice cream man a whistle…but I'm not sure why. Is he supposed to be a role model? A positive influence? I don't get it. The cop then gets the lead boy's sister to go on a date with him while perusing for dog food. It's the easiest pick up in the history of the world; few words are exchanged and none of them happen to be their names. The cop's friend magically links an adult murder to the child murdering spree. On his date, the cop and the older sister share some very forced dialog to bring about plot development and background information. Either that, or most people will tell virtual strangers that their younger brother is the bastard of the man that raped their mother.

Come to think of it, the cop seems to be involved in all that. Maybe HE'S the problem with the script…no, wait, there's also: The ice cream man begins to follow one of the kids in his truck, speeding after him. Now, I will admit that for a low budget movie, they do have a pretty good shot of this big truck screeching around the corner after the kid, but that's the ONLY good thing about this scene. The boy runs and runs, but never thinks to get off the road or into one of the many houses around. Shot in daylight, this scene cuts to a birthday party. Cut back to the boy being chased; it's now completely dark. Even if it was dusk at the prior scene, it got dark awful quick. And how does the boy run so fast for so long? Was this just a 'ran out of daylight while filming situation' situation? Couldn't it have been picked up later? What the hell was going on in Hail's head?
Mr. Ice Cream Man is shown full frame, which makes sense since it's SOV. Image quality is pretty shoddy, both as a result of being a SOV flick, and poor authoring by Dead Alive.
The sound mix, as with many SOVs, varies quite a lot, and one bit set in a classroom seemed to have only one character re-dubbed, which made the whole scene sound odd.
Extra Features
The DVD is pretty lacking in this department, not even including chapter breaks. It does come with the trailer for Mr. Ice Cream Man, and a essentially Easter egg trailers section for other Dead Alive releases. The trailer section is listed on the main menu, but when selected, the icon disappears. If you do finally get to the appropriate screen, many of the trailers listed aren't even on the disc, and when accessed, a screen pops up saying that trailer is on some other Dead Alive releases. If your player can even get to the 'this is on a different Dead Alive release' screen, that is, 'cause often my player just shut down after I selected a trailer. I'm thinking this disc is poorly authored. The Camp Blood trailers make those movies look hilarious, but despite guessing they would be funnier in preview format, I watched them. If stupidity is defined as never learning from mistakes…
The Verdict
The movie's too good for a SOV to be funny, and too bad to be worthwhile. Combined with an awful presentation, this is one to completely avoid.
Movie Score
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