Written by: John Farris (short story), David Schow (teleplay)
Directed by: Tom Holland
Starring: Lee Tergesen, William Forsythe, and Colin Cunningham
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
We All Scream for Ice Cream might as well be called Childhood Nightmare Fuel: The Movie since it mashes up innocuous juvenile stuff and perverts them to all hell. Not only is there a clown, but it drives an ice cream truck, a combination that would have been awesome for an eight year old--which means We All Scream for Ice Cream would be terrifying for that same eight year old. And if youíre going to tap someone to spoil cherished childhood memories, you could do worse than Tom Holland, who turned a Good Guy Doll into a homicidal ankle-biter named Chucky.
As an adult though, We All Scream is pretty rote but fun stuff, a perfect sort of campfire tale for a series like this: Layne Banixter (Lee Tergesen) has moved back to the small, sleepy town of his youth, and his arrival is met with the unexpected and mysterious death of one of his childhood buddies. A couple of days later, another member of the gang dies under similar circumstances a couple of days later, and, suddenly both Layne and his wife start experiencing weird phenomena like sudden coldness and drowsiness, plus their kids canít refuse the siren call of a phantom ice cream truck.
Eventually, the layers of the story melt away to reveal Layneís buried secret: he and his friends once accidentally killed the local ice cream man, a mentally handicapped guy named Buster (William Forsythe) who dressed up as a clown to peddle his wares. Buster was a kind and gentle soul, but his spirit hasnít taken too kindly to winding up on the business end of a fatal prank, so heís returned to exact vengeance through the gangís kids. The setup is a little bit of Nightmare on Elm Street, only the sins of the father arenít exactly passed down to the children; instead, theyíre used as pawns in their parentsí doom, who are serving penance for their prank-gone-wrong, so The Burning is actually a bit more of a reference point. This mystery is drawn out well enough--the big reveal comes about halfway through (kind of like in Elm Street), and itís as solid a hook as ever, with the particulars making it a worthwhile addition to this particular sub-genre.
For one, Lee Tergesen is one of those solid guys who hasnít had many (if any) turns in a lead role, but he carries We All Scream pretty well. For me, heíll always be Terry, the shaggy-haired ďI love you manĒ component of Wayne and Garthís crew, so itís a little odd to see him in the throes of clean-cut middle agedness. He takes to it, though, and itís not like he and his fellow victims have a lot to do since theyíre effectively slasher fodder, but thereís a modicum of gravitas brought to the proceedings. On the other end of the equation is William Forsythe as Buster in what might as well be a dual performance since he switches from sympathetic to menacing as the story progresses. I imagine this is what Rob Zombieís Pennywise would look like, especially when Forsythe goes silly an over-the-top. In that same vein, Colin Cunningham wanders in at some point as the grungy, possibly homeless bully from Layneís youth who brags about his exploits as a rapist. It goes without saying that We All Scream is eventually a little scattershot, tonally.
The other big highlight is (once again) the effects work from Nicotero and Berger. For a while, it seems almost as if the gruesome twosome sat this episode out, as Busterís victims are just reduced to a puddle of ice cream off-screen, a goofy concept that belies the visceral, gooey central set-piece that sees one of Busterís victims literally melt away in one of the best gore displays in this series. And thatís saying quite a lot, especially during the second season, which is something of a gorehoundís wet, bloody dream. That this episode is centered around ice cream seems appropriate, since it aims for the sweet-tooth and doesnít have much substance beyond that. Scripts donít come much more mechanical than this one, and there are some true clunkers littered within too, especially the forced cleverness in the exchanges between Layne and his wife. There is a line about ďwild spermĒ thatís a real howler, though.
Mostly, this just feels like Holland serving a platter of Neapolitan horror--thereís a little bit of It, a little bit of A Nightmare on Elm Street, a scoop of The Burning, and with Thinner acting as the cherry on top. Because heís an old pro, Holland effortlessly evokes mood and atmosphere, particularly during Busterís spectral night patrols, and the central concept thrives on the dissonance sparked by the corruption of childhood imagery. Per usual, Anchor Bay treated it well on DVD and adorned it with the typical array of special features: a making-of feature, a look at the effects, a photo gallery, and an audio commentary from Holland and writer David Schow. Like a lot of Masters of Horror episodes, We All Scream for Ice Cream is the equivalent of patronizing an ice cream truck--it plays a familiar tune and delivers a pre-packaged product easily digestible, but it hardly makes for a completely fulfilling meal on its own. Rent it!
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