CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA
Dir: Stuart Simpson
Written: Addison Heath
Starring: Glenn Maynard, Kyrie Capri, Aston Elliot, Louise Bremner, Benjamin Grant Mitchell, Kristen Condon
Out now in UK on DVD & BluRay from Monster Pictures UK.
Saturday at Celluloid Screams got underway with this little oddity from Australia. After the Kiwi’s landed a solid hit the night before with the brilliant Housebound, it was time for their neighbours to have a go with this weird psycho-thriller. Following the life of down on his luck ice cream man Warren Thompson (Glenn Maynard) as he goes about his daily business and obsesses over a soap actress (Kyrie Capri) with whom he wishes to develop a relationship. As he works he witnesses the worst of society and he soon crosses into dark territory as his rage builds and his obsessions begin to take control of him.
A strange film, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla has noble intentions and an extremely strong performance from Glenn Maynard at its centre, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark and begins to feel long and repetitive as it draws towards its conclusion. There is nothing specifically wrong with the film, it is just that it treads ground that has already been trodden better elsewhere. Clearly influenced by the Scorsese/De Niro classics Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy it tries to get under its lead characters skin and understand his increasingly erratic and dangerous behaviour. Looking at themes of isolation, obsession, and the psychosis of a man on the very edge it wants to be a weighty film, and in all fairness for about half of its running time it succeeds. But as its main character begins to unravel so too does the film.
Starting strongly with Warren’s daily routine, leading to him accidentally killing his own cat, these early scenes are incredibly affecting. It gives us subtle, but emotionally arresting insight into Warren’s life and mind set and sets the film up very well. Warren is a likeable but rather sad character that trudges through life unable to ever truly connect to the world around him, and whilst the film is dealing with this it holds its own and has the potential to be something special in its own right. Unfortunately as it moves into its second half and begins to focus on Warren’s obsession with soap actress Katey George (Capri) and his troubles with a family of thugs it, like its lead character, begins to lose its grip. Much of the psychology becomes predictable and the film lays many of its cards out on the table too early meaning that any intended surprises towards the end fall flat, robbing the film of a lot of its power.
That said the film does have plenty of merits. Glenn Maynard is fantastic as Warren, eliciting plenty of empathy for a character damaged by the world around him and unable to relate to reality. Even as the film loses much of its early promise Maynard manages to keep Warren interesting and unusual. The film expects a lot of him as an actor, and he delivers in absolute spades. The film also attempts to inject some genuine emotion and human empathy into its story, something that is often lacking in many horror/thrillers. Whilst it may not manage to hold its weight until the end, the film does at least try to give the audience something more than the standard horror fare or revenge thriller, and for that it should be applauded.
Ultimately Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is an interesting film rather than a compelling one. A victim sometimes of its own influences, its overly predictable second half is a disappointment after the careful emotional beats of the first. But Glenn Maynard gives an excellent performance as Warren Thompson and saves the film from completely folding in on itself.