Ice Cream Man (1995) ****  An endearing, enjoyable little horror movie and a wonderful showcase for Clint Howard (Evilspeak), Ice Cream Man is so unremittingly lurid and gory and sleazy, with such great sight gags and corny one-liners, that it’s possible to forgive its various imperfections.  It exudes such a refreshingly chilly immorality, such a fresh-churned eccentricity that a horrorite can hardly help but fall in love with Ice Cream Man at the first gory, gooey bite.

With its villain lifted from a universal childhood archetype of adult-sanctioned, carnival-colored, high-calorie indulgence, Ice Cream Man feels like the film that Stephen King’s It perhaps ought to have been.  Centering a movie, particularly a horror movie, around juvenile protagonists is a tricky proposition, but as this film and others – Grandmother’s House and The Gate are among the finest examples – have demonstrated, it can be done.

The child actors are all adequate, but Clint Howard’s performance is the principal attraction as he creates a lonely half-man character full of distinctive physical tics and gives him a vocal delivery something along the lines of how a defeated, psychotic, chain-smoking Pee Wee Herman might come across.  Anyone who isn’t already a Clint Howard fan would almost have to become one after experiencing Ice Cream Man.

A surprising number of familiar faces also show up in the supporting cast, with Olivia Hussey creating a nice kook part and David Warner, David Naughton, Sandahl Bergman, and Jan-Michael Vincent all underutilized and putting in more or less throwaway appearances to pay the rent.  They’re just the sprinkles on top, though.  The main thing here is a big, chilly, irresistible, dripping scoop of crazed Clint Howard in one of his career highlights.