Directed by: Derek Zemrak
Starring: Conrad Brooks, Christa Currie, Angie Warrington
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
The slasher genre has long been acknowledged as a base source for some of the hottest talents in cinema. As I have said before, the likes of Tom Hanks, Ellen Barkin, Mickey Rourke and Holly Hunter all launched their respective careers with bit parts in period splatter movies. But a fact that is often overlooked by followers is that the cycle is equally as significant as a retirement home for luminaries that may have already had their finest hour. The Sam Loomis character alluringly portrayed by Donald Pleasance in Halloween became a landmark ingredient for the category, which would leave the door open for screen veterans to attempt to re-ignite their status. Performers like George Kennedy, Farley Granger, Lawrence Tierney, Martin Landau and even Jack Palance have all added experience to youthful casts in various genre entries.
Ice Scream on the other hand has not opted for the traditional approach of snapping up an old hand with a glittering career history in the top tier. Instead we get B-movie legend Konrad Biedrzycki aka Conrad Brooks, whose credits include the film voted “the worst movie of all time” at The Golden Turkey awards! Yep you guessed it, Brooks was a student of notorious schlock director Ed Wood and he was a regular addition to his cast lists. His inclusion almost immediately gave Derek Zemrak’s slasher an alluring cult appeal and I could almost taste the cheese dripping from the VHS as I popped it into my VCR.
Randy Smith (Brooks) owns an ice cream parlour in a small city. Not content that the business is as lucrative as it could be, he decides on a huge revamp, which incorporates two of America’s most favourable pleasures. Out go the long white overalls of the female employees and in come skimpy mini-skirts and cleavage exposing boob tubes and a new moniker for the flirtatious workforce. Now business is looking good for the ‘scoopettes’ as they entice male customers with their revealing outfits and cheeky one-liners, which include, ‘Enjoy every lick!’ All is going swimmingly for Brooks’ industry master plan until a psychopathic killer with a cardboard box on his head begins killing off the scoopettes with a carving knife. Will any of them live to whip up a tasty bank balance from their ice cream careers? Or will they melt into B-movie obscurity?
Having watched throughout my life nearly 800-slasher movies, I must admit that I have grown accustomed with a director’s interesting approaches to padding out a 90-minute runtime. Edwin Brown’s The Prey became notorious for its inclusion of wildlife footage, whilst many titles opt for nonsensical and un-plot related character building. Zemrak on the other hand seems content to continually repeat identical shots of his exceptionally endowed ‘scoopettes’ preparing ice cream. To be honest I am making Ice Scream sound a lot better than it actually is, because watching semi-attractive porn rejects prepare a king cone becomes very boring… very quickly. They strut around trying their best to ‘act’ whilst customers remove a screw ball or a vanilla swirl from their cleavage. Sounds like good fun and it is for a while, but it soon begins to get a tad too samey-samey. It’s also worth noting that for a synopsis so focussed on the female anatomy, it’s a massive surprise that there’s no nudity at all.
The dramatics from the cast are what you’d expect from college drop-outs picked up because they agreed to prance around in tight shorts and boob tubes and Conrad Brooks hams his way through the runtime like his preparing to become the hottest purchase at the local delicatessen. There’s supposed to be a bit of a mystery element, but it’s virtually non-existent and I am positive that everyone will guess the identity of the madman by the close of his first screen appearance. The murders are sparse and bloodless and it sometimes feels like it is trying too hard to poke fun at itself, when a more sinister approach may have made it more enjoyable. Ice Scream seems to take place in a dimension far from planet Earth, because even after the deceased workers and their limbs are discovered littering the parlour, Scoopettes still remains open all hours for business!
This is most definitely a tongue in cheek tribute to the legend of Edward Wood and his zany efforts from forty-years earlier. Unfortunately its comedic attempts fail to cover up the stench of rank amateurism and the audience never seem to be on the same wavelength as the director, which means that it’s pretty much a failure. There’s no doubt that this will have a fan base because it is so obscure and tough to locate, but the only fun to be had will be in the search for an original copy. When you finally receive it you will kick yourself for trying so hard. Unfortunately this is not even good in a so bad it’s good way…
Final Girl: √
I Know What You Did Last Summer 1997
Directed by: Jim Gillepsie
Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I remember when I was fifteen years old; my girlfriend at that time came running to my house telling me about a great film that she’d seen with her friend, Gill. She described a killer in a creepy mask stalking teenagers and a twist at the end that was really exciting. The movie was of course Wes Craven’sScreamand I remember having mixed emotions. Firstly I was amazed that a slasher was the talk of the town and secondly, somewhat disappointed because I had been watching these for years already and now my partner, who was never interested in viewing these with me, was explaining how great one of them was. Funny how trends go in circles, eh?
Anyway I had been too busy being a teenager to catch that flick at the pictures, but I did go and see the next ‘slasher hot thing’, I Know What You Did Last Summer, which was released the following year. Due to my age (I was born in ’81) I didn’t get to experience the boom of the golden-age of stalk and slash, which meant that this was in fact the first genre piece that I had seen on the big screen.
The creative marketing team from Columbia Pictures had billed it as, ‘From the makers of Scream’, which wasn’t exactly true and Miramax successfully sued them. This was however from the imaginative pen of the same writer and that was perhaps the inspiration behind the studio’s ambitious claim.
Kevin Williamson had been a massive fan of horror flicks whilst growing up and he has stated quite openly that his favourite ever feature was John Carpenter’s Halloween. He had initially struggled to sell this script, but after the global box office success of Wes Craven’s genre rehash, he was offered a lucrative deal with Columbia.
After a party, four youngsters are heading home in celebratory mood, swerving across the secluded highway. When the driver is forced to take his eye off of the road for a second, he accidentally runs down someone that’s walking in the shadows. In their panic, they decide that instead of informing the authorities, they should dump the body rather than face-up to a charge of murder. Despite not all of them agreeing, the corpse ends up at the bottom of a lake and they drive off to get on with their lives.
One year later, they have all gone their separate ways, but suddenly each of them receives a note stating, I Know What You Did Last Summer. It seems that someone is aware of their deeds and soon they each become the victim of a masked assailant. Who could be the one that’s stalking them and what can they do to stop him?
There are many cases of hollow features making the most of a large budget (Titanic springs to mind) and it has to be said that I think if Williamson’s screenplay from the previous year had not been such a massive hit and this had secured a DTV deal instead of $17,000,000 funding, it probably would have been instantly forgotten. Unlike Scream, this lacks the self referential intelligence to stand out and instead of saying that this was inspired by The House on Sorority Row; it’s more like it has been completely cut and pasted from that synopsis. In other words this is an out and out stalk and slasher flick and not a dark humoured tribute to them. I know that the producers say that’s it was based on Lois Duncan’s 1973 paperback of the same title, but the film adaptation is as loose as Paris Hilton’s knickers… and equally as ostentatious!
Whereas the elder category members would compete with one-another through creativity and gore – where censors would allow – in their killings, the modern-day entries (hey like modern-day culture) are all about image. On an eye candy ranking, Summer gets a ten out of ten. There’s an amusing example of this halfway through the feature, where our obvious final girl Julie finds a corpse in the trunk of her car. She runs off to get help, but when she returns with her buddies, the body has disappeared. It’s an effective scene and the actors do their best to create some drama. The problem was that I just couldn’t take it seriously when I am staring at Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar having a ‘who’s got the best cleavage’ competition. Being a red-blooded Spaniard (and I am red blooded) it was hard for me to feel that the tone was dramatic when Hewitt has a top that’s five sizes too small and Gellar is standing there in what I can best describe as a thicker version of a push-up bra. The sequence kind of felt to me like a Playboy centrefold knocking on your door and telling you that your electricity is about to be cut off. Yes sure it’s bad news, but your attention is most definitely occupied by ‘other things’. Both actresses were aware that director Jim Gillespie was keeping his camera focused on their lady lumps far more than anything else and they refer to the flick between themselves as, ‘I Know What Your Breasts Did Last Summer’. Interestingly enough, Gellar lost weight during the production due to her disliking of the local food and so they strapped silicone inside her bra because she lost a cup size. If ever proof were needed of the director’s true intentions, then there you have it.
Aside from making the most of his cast’s ample portions, for me, Jim Gillespie was not the right choice for this feature. Despite countless attempts, he generates zero tension and zero shocks. Put it this way, if you had given John Carpenter this budget and script, you would have seen a completely different motion picture. (He wouldn’t have accepted, but hey!) The film felt like a Tasty Tortilla that was just begging for someone to add some cheese on top to make it perfect. The killer was creepy, the story was interesting, the choice of weapon was cool, the girls were hot, hot, hot, but it was lacking a macabre tone, which I think a more capable craftsman could have delivered.
What I did like was how the plot examines themes of conscience. One year after the unfortunate incident, the characters all show effects and guilt has changed each of them in a different way. Hewitt’s speech about how they had affected the lives of people through their actions added a welcome depth to the story and I especially liked the different opinions of each persona. The characters are well developed and the performances are fine rather than outstanding, but still strong enough to carry the plot. I also liked the location and the opening cinematography of crashing waves was beautiful and stylish. Roger Ebert called it the only decent shot in the feature and although he is a critique that I respect and almost always agree with in terms of ‘normal’ cinema, I never pay any attention WHATSOEVER to his views on slasher flicks. It’s a genre that you either love or hate and he is one of those of the ‘hate’ variety.
My review may sound hyper-critical, but that’s not my intention. This is a good, solid slasher treat and a great way to introduce half-hearted audiences to the category. It’s very modern and trendy, but includes all of the old-skool clichés and makes good use of them.
It is certainly not one of my favourites, but an essential title for the cycle all the same and should most definitely be amongst your collection.
Final Girl √√√√