Welcome to another edition of Late to the Party! Now, a lot of the times, we’ve visited horror classics that somehow managed to pass over our radar. But in this case, I’ve decided to deep dive into a horror movie that few have seen but many are sure to remember. I’m talking about the 1994, direct-to-video, Clint Howard slasher vehicle, The Ice Cream Man!
I’m sure many of you are familiar with this one considering how eye-catching the VHS box art was. Whenever I walked through my local Blockbuster or video store, that image of a psychotic Clint Howard with gouged out eyes was always pure nightmare fuel. With that in mind, the plot is very befitting of scares the VHS gave kids. The Ice Cream Man follows Gregory (Clint Howard) as he attempts to get his life on track after being released from the local insane asylum. Getting by as the titular Ice Cream Man and trying to be nice and friendly to the neighborhood kids. But his sanity melts faster than a popsicle under the sun, and Gregory’s soon using “special ingredients” made out of animal and human flesh! It’s up to a group of kids calling themselves The Rocketeers to expose Gregory’s crimes, or they may end up as dessert.
With a brand new 2K blu-ray recently released by the fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome, and that disturbing VHS cover on my traumatized mind all these years, I decided to take the plunge and face my Clint Howard related fears. Needless to say, this isn’t a really scary movie after all, but it certainly delivers in gore and gross-outs. From close-ups of the melting, sticky ice cream, to bodies being mutilated, this movie does not shy away.
Clint Howard really steals the spotlight as Gregory the psycho ice cream man. He’s not some sadistic killer, but a genuinely crazy man who does what he thinks is best to survive… which also happens to include murder and cannibalism. He frequently has flashbacks to the Wishing Well insane asylum where he was ‘treated’ which involved being given big scoops of ice cream, visits by clowns, and getting huge hypodermic needles stabbed into his skull. Needless to say, his condition did not improve. As our slash villain, Gregory manages to rack up a decent body count while delivering some pretty goofy ice cream related one-liners.
What’s really interesting about this movie is that for such a gory story, the main protagonists are a group of kids. ‘The Rocketeers’ as they dub themselves are comparable to The Goonies or Monster Squad except they have matching berets and tangle with a wacko Ice Cream Man. As well, Jan-Michael Vincent plays a detective trying to figure out who’s behind the rash of disappearances in town, but always falls one step behind Gregory. There are some jokes that definitely balance out the horror and comedy aspects of the film such as the asylum director talking about how compassionate the hospital is before telling a screaming patient to shut-up.
Needless to say, this is a very weird movie, but that’s a big percentage of the charm. You just don’t know what kind of antics Gregory is going to get into, but it’s entertaining to see where he goes next. As well, what manner of mayhem he can unleahs with all manner of ice cream related weaponry, from his knife-scoop to slamming a dude’s face into a cone waffle iron.
This is one return to the direct-to-video days of yore I rather enjoyed. If you want to see the Clint Howard carnage, check out Vinegar Syndrome’s recent blu-ray release. Join us next time when we arrive fashionably late to the party in examining another horror classic!