This prototypical, straight-to-video 90s horror goes heavy on the cheese but skimps on substance beyond Clint Howard’s campy performance.
A young boy who witnesses the murder of the beloved Ice Cream King grows up to fill the vacancy with some very bloody special ingredients. Let’s dig into 1995’s “Ice Cream Man”, directed by Norman Apstein!
As I See It
I passed this VHS dozens of times at my local RKO Video. I probably picked the box up a handful of times to check out the screenshots on the back, meant to sell whoever was intrigued by the cover image but needed just a little bit more coaxing. It never worked for me. Along with Dr. Giggles (which I eventually caved to on DVD), Ice Cream Man seemed far too schlock for my taste. I wanted the horror. I wanted the chills and fright and the type of psyche damaging scenes that would keep me up at night.
I chose something else… until Blockbuster came in and sanitized the whole industry.
The charm of renting a movie because of its cover — which inevitably smelled like the mildew growing on the hand-built wooden shelving, and always rested on dirty carpeting that seemed to have just dried from the latest sewage leak — went out the door. In came 50 copies of the hottest new action film evenly spaced apart in eye-catching colored displays. You don’t get to bring that piece of cinematic art history home with you. You get the same, lame, blue and white and gold box if you rent the latest Die Hard movie or Peter Pan. Fuck outta here with that shit.
All you nostalgia hounds that shed tears with that Netflix documentary can kick rocks, too.
Blockbuster was the end of the video store. It operated in the corpse of a true movie experience like a Spirit Halloween crawling inside the cadaver of Geoffrey Giraffe.
Blockbuster was capitalism at its worst and least adaptive. But the one positive that came out of its back-breaking business model was I acquired a ton of VHS when my local store liquidated their inventory.
This brings us to Ice Cream Man: one of my acquisitions. I never watched it. Not until this past week. I had to dust off a VCR and lower my standards back to a time before I wore contact lenses and could tell how grainy and absolute shite the video looked.
I’ll pat my young self on the shoulder for passing on this now cult film, that could have been a ten-minute short without losing any exposition.
Clint Howard (Gregory, the Ice Cream Prince) has enjoyed a long career and instant recognition — whether it be bit parts in his Brother Ron’s films (Apollo 13, etc.) or in seminal comedies like Austin Powers or Adam Sandler’s Little Nicky. But it’s his role as Eaglebauer in Rock and Roll High School that first introduced me to Clint.
David Warner is a guy who pops up everywhere for me! He’s the human equivalent of 11:11.
David Naughton plays Martin, and it’s nice to see his face didn’t lose its form after An American Werewolf in London, but his head didn’t stay attached for long in this one.
Of Gratuitous Nature
Though most of those involved in the production came from the adult film industry, it shows you can’t judge based on ill-conceived conceptions of old taboos, as they avoided the pitfalls of so many older films that involved some creepy purveyor of children’s treats. I still don’t like the film, but they’ve got that going for them.
I haven’t seen a prop I’ve wanted more than David Naughton’s head as an ice cream cone in a long, long time.
Ripe for a Remake
Maybe it’s time to thaw out poor Gregory and give him another chance at bringing frozen treats and terror to the neighborhood kids.
A Kickstarter was unsuccessful back in 2014 to raise $300k for a sequel. Raising less than five thousand dollars, the campaign was perhaps premature as in the seven years since many films and retro/nostalgic projects have grown wings thanks to the contrarian and ironic nature of a generation with “fuck it” money that is happy to sink a hundred bucks each for a t-shirt and their names in the special thanks section.
Where to Watch
Vinegar Syndrome has released a Blu-ray with very few copies left over at their site. Though this wasn’t the version I watched, as I had to break out the old VCR and watch what I’ve now discovered is a rather valuable VHS copy. You may also stream on Amazon Prime, Tubi, and Vudu.