EXCL: The I Scream Man


We talk to the creators of the upcoming slasher

If the late-’80s/early-’90s bore any lessons, it’s that you can’t intentionally set out to make the next iconic bogeyman. A great villain is born through happenstance. Let’s wander the halls of horror recognizing some of the genre’s failed freaks, shall we? To your right, the pierced and punked-out Trickster of Brainscan, on the left, TV channel hopping Horace Pinker of Shocker. Watch your feet, you don’t want to kick Dolly Dearest now. Around the corner, a freezer – that’s where we keep Clint Howard’s Ice Cream Man chilled alongside a new addition, We All Scream for Ice Cream‘s stuttering Buster. He ain’t stutterin’ no more.

Director J.T. Mollner and the creators of the upcoming indie The I Scream Man are going to do their best to ensure their titular killer doesn’t wind up in this shameful frosty pantheon of botched baddies. “There are no heads on ice cream cones. No eyeballs floating around in the ice cream,” Mollner asserts. “This isn’t a funny ‘ice cream man film’ with those kind of gimmicks.” If this Las Vegas haunted attraction showman and former actor had his way, the good-humored nature of the title wouldn’t even exist if the film’s potential distributors weren’t lining up down the street holding their interest, like kids protecting some loose change for a cold delectable dairy delicacy, all because of the name. “The title might change, I’m not sure yet. But look, I know the theme of the ice cream man has been dabbled in – less than what I thought though. There are a couple of movies that had been straight-to-video and shit like that. I don’t think the theme has been taken to a serious level like it should be taken to. Let’s make a serious, hardcore, envelope-pushing horror film where the killer happens to be an ice cream man.”

Mollner is just getting fired up when our waitress brings drinks to cool us down on this warm afternoon in Santa Monica. Shock Till You Drop has joined the director, co-writer Mikos Zavros and producer Nicholas Terry to talk about their first fright feature foray at a hamburger joint on the foot traffic-heavy 3rd Street Promenade. The Ben & Jerry’s a few doors down has to be hoppin’, this writer wonders; thoughts drift to the massacre that successful duo could enact. Customers choking on pints upon pints of Chunky Monkey…

But wait, Mollner’s film is a serious one, and to back that up, he’s brought in some surprising casting clout. Crispin “Hellion” Glover leads the ensemble, further enjoying his resurgence in horror following his timid turn in Willard, the over-the-top double-barrel blast he delivered in Simon Says (still unreleased) and the H.G. Lewis remake Wizard of Gore, directed by Jeremy Kasten. Mollner and Terry consider their real coup to be the involvement of Haylie Duff, she of Napolean Dynamite fame and Hilary’s older sis.

“I can’t wait to bloody her up and get some brains splattered on her,” Mollner enthuses. “It’s gonna be fun bringing someone from the world she’s been in and to have her fans, and the fans of our genre, see her in this. ‘Cause this is not a Haylie Duff vehicle in any way. This isn’t a teen horror flick.”

“It’s the perfect opportunity for her,” Terry adds. “I know she wants to branch out. And it’s great timing. I think it’s a testament to [Mollner and Zavros’] script and the vision of J.T. that we can get these people. For your first feature you don’t get people like this.” The list of thespians doesn’t end there, however. Fred Ward, Dee Wallace and Judd Nelson co-star, there’s also room for zombie godfather George Romero to stretch his acting abilities. “He’s one of my top five favorite characters of all time,” says Mollner. “He plays Earl the bartender at Carpenter’s Tavern…”

“In Hooper, Wyoming.” Zavros interjects, smiling unashamed of the story’s obvious nods to the horror greats. At the time of this writing the only casting hiccup experienced by the trio is the involvement of Tom Sizemore. Due to unfortunate circumstances that found Sizemore falling off the wagon, hard, Mollner needed to replace his leading man and hired Michael Madsen.

Such hasty decision-making is all part of the show as Mollner is accustomed to. Growing up, he’d participate with his father, an actor, in putting on Halloween shows year after year on his neighborhood block. After moving to Los Angeles it wasn’t long before he and Zavros (whom Mollner met in Vegas) cooked up the I Scream Man. “I’m a huge fan of the slasher genre and big fan of great film in general, but I love the slasher sub-genre,” Mollner dishes. “I was staying at Mikos’ house one night after I moved to L.A. and we had a long night of drinking. When I woke up hung over on his couch, I heard the ice cream truck. It then gave me this idea.” Mollner is one who keeps the plot closely guarded, in fact, when he first met Terry, whose “manager” cap sits next to his “producer” one, Mollner told him, “‘if you want to read [the script] you gotta sign me.’ He trapped me there,” Terry laughs. But Mollner will say this, “We’re really trying to say something about the cycle of violence in this film, how violence breeds violence. Is vigilante killing the answer and does it just inspire more violence?”

Says Zavros, “The ice scream man, the reason he’s an ice cream vendor, is to facilitate the vigilantism. That’s the vehicle.”

“I want the graphic intense brutal nature of the film to be counterbalanced by the fact that I believe the genre has never really been given the respect it deserves,” Mollner continues. “Polanski made Repulsion and gave the psychological thriller the respect it deserves. I think the slasher film can be made in that vein with great direction, storytelling and good character development where you believe in them, it’s emotional when they die, it’s terrible.”

In keeping with the no-nonsense, and strict “no remake” (Mollner calls his production company “No Remake Pictures”), policy, Mollner says they’re forgoing anything “cutesy” with Glover’s wardrobe. Terry slides a production binder to Shock and we get a glimpse of the mask Glover’s killer will wear. Simple and effective (you get a sense of it in the concept poster art above). What you won’t see is your archetypal 1950s-inspired ice cream peddler. “He’s a germaphobe – there’s a constant changing of surgical gloves that he does during the killings. There’s a surgical mask he wears,” Mollner reveals. “We blend the two themes of Henry [Lee Lucas] and the iconic Halloween killer because at night when he kills he wears a mask, there’s a reason for it. But during the daytime, he’s a regular guy, that is soft-spoken. He’s been abused through many different ways in his life. He’s a tortured soul.”

Mollner and Zavros joke that with Terry acting as a responsible producer they’re eschewing an X rating. Mollner wants to go balls-out. Sex. Gore. Creative kills. Rock ‘n roll, baby. But sensibly they have to keep some of the violence in check if they hope to get a distributor. Still, “there are major surprises in this film, surprises in the end and throughout the film,” Mollner maintains. “The ice cream man can get to children and the children are his way to the people he needs to kill and that will be understood. There’s a reason for him to choose that profession. There’s still room and rules left to be broken in the genre. And we break at least three major rules that I can think, and it’s the reason we’re not going with a major studio.”

The I Scream Man begins shooting this July in Oregon. Expect more coverage on Shock in the future!

Source: Ryan Rotten