No Ron Howard film cracks my top 25 film list. But a Clint Howard film does. That film is called Ice Cream Man. Haven’t heard of it? I don’t blame you. It’s often pegged as a “so bad it’s good” movie, but I beg to differ. It’s just good.
So, here is my ode to Ice Cream Man, and why it deserves a second chance.
Arguably the hardest part of writing original horror is taking something common and mundane, and making it scary. This film excels at that. Everyone knows the ice cream man. But not everyone knows this ice cream man.
The plot is pretty straightforward: take It, and replace Pennywise with a sadistic ice cream man.
In fact, the It similarities are numerous. And that’s my one critique of the film. I can’t help but wonder if this, released 10 years after It was written, was at least partially inspired by the novel. Don’t worry though, there’s no orgy to be found in this film. There is, however, a group of bullied kids that form a pact to defeat the town’s killer. It can best be described as a knockoff Loser Club.
But I’m not saying this as a bad thing. I love It, but I love this film more. There’s something so authentic in the making of it. You can feel the passion. And though the plot may be reminiscent of the ever popular It, I don’t think that detracts from the film at all. In fact, it heightens it for me. It takes a very familiar plotline and takes it in new and original directions.
Don’t Eat The Ice Cream!
One such original direction is the characterization of the killer Ice Cream Man named Gregory. The film takes time to develop him. And on top of it all, he’s full of wit.
For me, a “so bad it’s good” movie has to have unintentional humor. It has to be a movie where the audience doesn’t know whether to laugh or be scared. In this film, the humor comes off as very intentional, and it’s quite refreshing too.
Howard dishes out more one liners than he does ice cream scoops, and that’s not a bad thing.
An Authentic Film
I love that the film stays true to what it is. It may delve into other subgenres or horror tropes from time to time (the asylum, for example), but it all feels right. The tone is consistent throughout and that’s important for a “so bad it’s good” movie to rise above the rest.
Yes, it’s clearly a low-budget 90’s film. Emphasis on “low-budget.” But I couldn’t help but feel inspired that someone with a vision could bring their story to life with hardly any money. And this was 25 years ago.
Like I said, the passion comes through. Have you seen Ice Cream Man? Did you like it as much as I did? Let us know in the comments!