Urban legends of ice cream men with evil intentions have existed for decades. Sometimes he’s selling recreation on the side to the big kids. Other times he might be entertaining lonely housewives. One can only imagine how the tinny music box in the truck might slowly drive someone insane. A wholesome facade in his crisp white uniform and matching smile. He knows where you live and he peddles temptation.
Watch Out For Children! The Ice Cream Man’s Horror Movie Origins
Norman Apstein (Paul Norman) was an independent filmmaker that fell into adult films out of financial necessity. Credited with directing 134 films, winner of 2 awards, and inducted into the AVN Hall of Fame in 1998. Aided in part by his connections, Ice Cream Man became his sole foray into mainstream cinema. Heavily inspired by movies like The Goonies, It, and The Monster Squad, Norman set out to create a horror movie for kids. The end result was more of a campy horror comedy. Amassing a cult following 25 years after its release.
Clint Howard plays Gregory Tudor, a few scoops short of a sundae. Witnessing The Ice Cream King gunned down, Gregory grows up in a mental hospital of the worst kind. As an adult he is the shadowy figure inside of the ice cream truck. Bringing happiness to the children and hiding secrets that would violate every health code.
When kids start going missing, the police (Jan-Michael Vincent and Lee Majors II) are no help. That’s when The Rocketeers decide to get involved. Seeking justice for the kidnapping of their friend, Small Paul, a Macaulay Culkin look-alike bookworm.
It’s weird to think that this film was intended as a kid’s movie, considering it was being produced by pornography. Ice Cream Man’s full crew had previously worked with Norman. The script itself was purposely raunchy, containing a subtle humor that reflected the director’s ties. Several extras and a few cameos were actually adult film stars.
It is also worth mentioning that this Ice Cream Man horror movie just so happened to be funded in part by the Converse shoe company. You might notice quite a few shots of All Star Chuck Taylors throughout the entire film.
The horror movie got swept up in the tail end of the direct-to-video slasher trend in 1995. The same year it got a theater premiere at Chicago’s Brew ’n View for the Clint Howard Film Festival… a triple feature with a few of his other films, Rock N Roll High School and Evil Speak.
The Ice Cream Prince
Clint Howard’s performance defined the ice cream man as the perfect slasher. Playing a deranged nut-bar extremely well with vacant stares and gravel voiced one liners.
At conventions, Clint mentions drawing influence from his own hometown ice cream man. A crusty caricature that often swore at kids. During the filming of Ice Cream Man, Clint would scream at the top of his lungs while driving to the set every day. This helped him achieve the scratchy Tom Waits-esque voice.
The ice cream man slasher appeared in 2017’s Ice Cream Truck. A psychological thriller/horror featuring a stalking ice cream man with a 3-mile stare. The Ice Scream Horror Neighborhood series of mobile games by Keplerians introduces us to Rod Sullivan. A Leatherface reminiscent slasher that freezes the flesh of children to make ice cream. On a more supernatural level, Doug Jones was the perfect choice for the ice cream man abomination in Legion. Image comics publishes Ice Cream Man, a surreal horror anthology comic. Each issue is hosted by its namesake, an otherworldly vendor that feeds on suffering.
Even the ice cream truck itself has become a sub trope of horror. Stirring a sense of dread with the twinkling melody. A distant echo of doom, like the My-T Tas-T truck from Maximum Overdrive. Or the blissful carnage and fire power of the Sweet Tooth truck in the Twisted Metal game franchise. As well as Killer Klowns From Outer Space gave us the Terenzi Brothers trolling fornicating teenagers in their ice cream clown truck.
Not Every Day is a Happy Happy Happy Day
In an interview, Norman Apstein admitted that making Ice Cream Man kid-friendly was the kiss of death… wishing he had been able to do a straight on horror movie instead.
Clint and Norman had joked about doing a sequel over the years and started to get serious after two decades. The ending of the first film gave ample opportunity to continue the story. Clint Howard still talks fondly of the original film. “Lovely memories working on the movie,” Howard said for AV Club. “I still talk about it all the time. I still go to science fiction or horror conventions, and besides maybe Star Trek, the title that most people want to talk about is Ice Cream Man.”
To gauge interest, the pair launched a Kickstarter in October of 2014 to fund Ice Cream Man 2: Sundae Bloody Sunday, a sequel of Gregory’s revenge on the Rocketeers all grown up. The Kickstarter campaign closed later that same month, having underperformed its goal. But the project hasn’t been abandoned. Clint and Norman are still looking for alternative financing.
Ice Cream Man is a staple of summertime horror films. A video store gem, falling somewhere between the classical and self-referential eras of slasher. Deliberately tongue-in-cheek, this purveyor of frozen treats will lure you in with slapstick and gore.
Last Updated on October 11, 2021.