24th Oct2014

Celluloid Screams 2014: ‘Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Glenn Maynard, Kyrie Capri, Aston Elliot, Louise Bremner, Benjamin Grant Mitchell, Kristen Condon, Lucinda Cowden | Written by Addison Heath | Directed by Stuart Simpson

chocolate-vanilla-strawberry

It’s been four years since Stuart Simpson hit my cinematic radar with El Monstro Del Mar a rockabilly meets monster movie that, despite its low budget nature, was a tremendously fun flick – plus it didn’t hurt that the cast were good on the eye! Since then I’ve been following Simpson on Facebook,Twitter – you know, the usual social media outlets – and in particular the progression of his next feature, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla

Awkward ice cream van driver Warren Thompson’s only respite from his drab existence comes in the form of gorgeous soapie star Katie George. Besotted with the young actress, Warren can’t help but imagine what life would be like with Katie at his side. After suffering another in a long line of savage beatings from local thugs, Warren’s fragile psyche cracks under the strain, and his infatuation with Katie turns into psychotic obsession. As the lines between reality and fiction blur, Warren’s quest to make Katie his will have catastrophic implications for all who populate his simple world.

It’s safe to say that Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is one of those movies that is both hard to pigeon-hole and will divide audiences. For one, it walks a fine line between horror, black comedy and drama. At any given point in the film the mood can change, which means we, the audience, never really know what’s coming next – it gives the film a sense of danger and foreboding, even when the mood is actually light, keeping everything “on edge”.

There are also shades of Taxi Driver to the film as Warren is, under the surface, not too dissimilar to Robert De Niro’s psychotic cabbie. The influence is even more prevalent when Warren eventually cracks and his true, disturbed, nature comes to the fore – with actor Glenn Maynard seemingly channeling the same anger and inner rage that De Niro did in his seminal role. In fact Maynard carries the film on his shoulders for the entirety of it’s run time, giving what can only be described a tour-de-force performance that runs the gamut from sympathetic simpleton to  psychotic loon. Warren’s odd fascination with an Aussie soap called Round the Block and the films of Clint Eastwood, clearly demonstrates the juxaposition of his fragile psyche – on the one hand there’s the need for a calm “family” life and a steady relationship, on the other he adores the violence and machismo of Eastwood’s movies, equating that with how men should behave.

It’s that dichotomy that makes Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla such an interesting watch – you can’t help but feel for Warren, even though he is a bit of an oddball. It’s a credit to writer Addison Heath, director Stuart Simpson and actor Glenn Maynard that the audience feels such a strong sense of pathos and empathy with Warren… Even when he’s calling sex chat lines and fapping off to the latest episode of Round The Block! It’s makes Warren’s journey that much more believable and that much more involving.

But in the end it’s the poignant, often heart-wrenching, to-camera vlogs Warren does – revealing both his inner most thoughts, his secrets, and even his psychosis – that kept me watching. Those scenes raise Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla head and shoulders above other films of this ilk and unlike many similar movies that use this particular trope, it never seems forced – you really do feel like you’re watching the real-life video diaries of a sad, lonely man.

Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is a stunning film that should, at least in this reviewers opinion, be held in the same regard as the Ozploitation classics of yesteryear. There’s no way that Hollywood would ever produce something as unique and raw as Simpson and co. have, proving once again that down under they really do do things differently.

***** 5/5

Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is released on DVD  on November 10th, courtesy of Monster Pictures.

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