Meet Warren Thompson. He’s a mild mannered, socially inept ice cream vendor who likes nothing more than peddling his 3 favourite ice cream flavors all day and then heading home to fondle himself in front of his favourite soap opera. It’s a pretty pathetic existence for sure, but this is where Warren is at in his life when we meet him at the start of Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla, a 2014 Australian comedy slasher flick, directed by Stuart Simpson.
When Warren is savagely attacked by a local pimp, he begins to escape into the fantasy land inside his head. It’s a land where he isn’t such a loser, where the bullies can’t hurt him, and more importantly, where the female lead in his favourite soap comes to his ice cream truck to meet him, even agreeing to a date. But when he realizes that the real-life actress behind the character is more bitch than babe, the fantasy begins to unravel, bleeding over into reality and unleashing a dangerous, vengeful monster onto the streets.
Glenn Maynard’s Warren, with his greasy side-parted hair and Hitler style mustache, is equal parts creepy and tragic. At first, we want Warren to find true love with Kyrié Nunan-Jackson’s soap starlet, but quickly realise how dangerously unhinged he is. He’s Harry Callaghan mixed with Charlie Chaplin, with more than a little Travis Bickle thrown in for good measure.
I first encountered Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla on the festival circuit back in 2015, at Sheffield’s Celluloid Screams Festival. To be completely honest I hadn’t heard a thing about it up to that point, so I went into the screening completely cold. What I witnessed was an incredible character piece with an unforgettable performance by its lead Glenn Maynard. Kudos must also be given to Stuart Simpson. Simpson is the mind behind the ‘M for Mutant’ section of ABC’s of Death 2, and is one of the horror genres most promising talents. If Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is anything to go by, then he has a very bright (and dark) future ahead of him.
There are also other great performances throughout, including Nunan-Jackson, who excels as the sickly-sweet soap opera star come mega bitch, and Aston Elliott as Rocko the arsehole pimp that focuses his fury on Warren at every given opportunity.
Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is darkly comedic, but the fun is often too fleeting, thanks to the continued set-backs in Warren’s pathetic life. That’s not a criticism though. Instead, it’s largely what makes the film so effective. Like the chocolate, strawberry and vanilla flavors mentioned in the title, the film is sweet in places, but if you’re not careful it will leave you with one hell of a brain freeze.