Celluloid Screams 2014: Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla Review.
Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla may not be your conventional title for a horror film but with that said its one of the most unique and daring genre films that has come out in recent years that has the power to stay with you long after viewing it.
This character-centred piece tells the tragic story of a lonely, ice-cream van driver named Warren (Glenn Maynard). Following daily abuse from a local thug and an the accidental death of his pet cat (a rather traumatic scene for any cat lover!), routine-structured Warren’s only comfort is in a cheesy, Australian soap opera titled Round the Block and its main actress Katie George (Kyrie Capri) which borders on obsessive. Warren records endless VHS tapes of the show and religiously collects magazine clippings of the charismatic actress.
Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla quickly gets under the skin, as a viewer it’s a voyeuristic experience in terms of observing Warren’s mundane daily life and getting an insight into his personal fantasies. These sequences are well-crafted, depicting Warren as a cool and collected individual, an illusion of how Warren would like to see himself, a Clint Eastwood type figure from his Western/Dirty Harry days. Glenn Maynard delivers an electrifying performance as the fragile, socially-awkward protagonist, he plays fantasy Warren as almost unrecognisable, demonstrating his range as an actor and his power to single-handedly carry the film, keeping us invested in him until the bitter end. He is a difficult character not to root for, as an audience we garner empathy for him as he struggles through a series of unpleasant situations and we hope that the poor guy catches a break. The majority of horrible things happen to him in broad daylight, emphasizing how exposed the character is and again taking away the conventionality of the horror genre that sets everything at night. Several intimate moments occur throughout the film as Warren directly addresses the audience with a series of video diaries, adding to the voyeurism the film displays.
The supporting cast also deliver fantastic performances that compliment Maynard as Warren, Kyrie Capri is the sweet, down-t0-earth soap actress but shows diversity in her performance. Aston Elliot is disturbing and confrontational as the antagonistic thug Rocko, a classic bully type.
Stuart Simpson’s direction keeps the audience on edge throughout, unsure of what path the film will take next which keeps it amazingly gripping.Warren is a man on the edge and we wait to see what will finally tip him over. In our Ghostface Girls Podcast, we discussed how on the surface the film appeared reminiscent of the 2011 festival favourite, Some Guy Who Kills People; besides sharing a similar visual aesthetic and an undermined protagonist, Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla is a whole different tub of ice cream! In fact, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is considerably more bleak, particularly due to the fact we are watching an upsetting situation unfold on screen of a vulnerable man’s descent into psychopathic tendencies. Addison Heath’s script is powerful and moving but incredibly dark. Heath’s ability to create such a dynamic character that carries the film and never loses focus must be applauded.
Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla blurs the lines between fantasy and reality with clever techniques that it manages to deceive the audience at times into knowing what’s real and what is located in Warren’s imagination. The concept of things never really being what they seem is a credit to Simpson’s directing and Heath’s writing.
One of the stand-out film’s of this year’s festival, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla holds such an emotional impact that its one unforgettable movie. Without having seen any other of Stuart Simpson’s work, this film is a hell of an introduction.
For a whole different kind of flavour of horror, buy Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla on Blu-Ray and DVD from November 10th.
Hayley Alice Roberts.