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Review: ‘The Ice Cream Truck’ soft serves its horror

Deanna Russo in the film “The Ice Cream Truck.”
(Uncork’d Entertainment)

The arty slasher picture “The Ice Cream Truck” proceeds from the oft-deployed premise that the suburbs are inherently creepy. While writer-director Megan Freels Johnston makes some unusual choices that set her film apart from run-of-the-mill low-budget horror, too much of her movie feels warmed-over.

A solid cast of TV veterans is led by Deanna Russo, playing Mary, a freelance writer who moves back to her hometown a week ahead of her husband and kids. Bored, restless, and unwilling to befriend the other mothers on the block, she starts flirting with her hunky, pot-smoking teenage neighbor Max (John Redlinger).

At its best, “The Ice Cream Truck” is keenly attuned to Mary’s desires and paranoia. As Mary revisits her adolescence, Johnston surrounds her with people who creep her out: like a young housewife who subtly propositions her, a leering delivery guy and an unnaturally polite ice cream man who circles the neighborhood.

The movie doesn’t work as a thriller. Every now and then the eponymous villain murders one of the subdivision’s wanton teens; but there are never any repercussions. He’s mostly a metaphor come to life: a representative of old-fashioned Americana, judging Mary for her lust.

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Metaphors aren’t that scary though — especially when they’re the umpteenth horror film bad guy representing middle-class hypocrisy. And ultimately, the soft surrealism of “The Ice Cream Truck” means that while it’s fascinating to watch, it doesn’t land with much impact.

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‘The Ice Cream Truck’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

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Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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