‘Kruel’ – is a horror/thriller feature length movie about a psychotic killer who masquerades as an ice cream man in order to get closer to the objects of his affection.
Kruel starts out somewhat intriguing: a young couple is making out in a jeep out in the woods. Okay, you’ve seen that a million times, but let me continue. Apparently the boy (Ben, played monotone and dull by Dakota Morrissiey) must be kissing badly (?), because the girl (Jo, played by first time actress Kierney Nelson – not the last time you’ll run into a rookie in this one) stops him and asks what’s wrong. He says nothing. They do this back and forth a couple more times, then he tells her he cheated on her. She is obviously upset and tells him to bring her home, but he wants to talk about his feelings. What’s cool is, as this is happening, we get a point-of-view shot from someone out in the woods, watching them, creeping up on them. Then we see his hand reach out to open a door and *POOF* the title of the movie appears on screen, the suspense is killed as we skip to some other scene, and that’s that. Unfortunately, that is the pretty much best part of the movie.
If you told me that Kruel was originally made for the Hallmark Channel, or maybe Lifetime, then had a little bit of blood and a quick glimpse of a boob thrown in to try and appeal to a different audience, I would not hesitate to believe you. Yeah, this is that kind of movie. However, first time writer/director Robert Henderson does seem to have some skills with the camera, so all is not necessarily lost. It’s just that his writing seems more suitable for a TV show, maybe something along the lines of a slightly darker Dawson’s Creek, and not exactly what we hope for in a horror movie.
Let’s get to the story. Jo is staying at her parents’ house, having had to come home from college after hurting herself and losing her track scholarship (a detail that doesn’t seem to really matter). She had been dating Ben, but as we know, he cheated on her, so instead we have to deal with him constantly calling, writing, crying, whining, etc. One day, the boys Jo nannies (not babysits, mind you, but “nannies”) get scared by the painted-faced ice cream man. Jo goes to confront him, he introduces himself as Willie (played by J. T. Chinn, the only glimmer of hope in the movie, but unfortunately under-utilized), and acts kind of silly while asking for forgiveness. She gets creeped out and goes inside. A few days later, Ben stops by and begs again for Jo’s forgiveness. While they whine back and forth about their problems, one of the kids Jo’s supposed to be watching disappears. They search for him, have no luck, and spend the rest of the movie telling the police it was probably the ice cream man who kidnapped him, then following him around, then going back to the police, then breaking into his place, then going back to the police, over and over and over again, with a handful of sit-down talks about maybe getting back together thrown in to further nauseate the part of the audience that thought the movie poster looked somewhat promising.
I lied – there is one other scene, aside from the very beginning, that is impressive. At one point, Jo wakes up in the middle of the night and hears the ice cream truck’s jingle playing outside. She looks and see Willie walking toward her house with an axe. She hurries to lock the doors and windows, but he breaks in, throws her down, and raises the axe. And then – yep, you guessed it – Jo wakes up. I was all a dream. The best part of the movie was a dream sequence. Not a good sign.
I want to be able to give at least some good words about Kruel, but I’m really having a hard time. Maybe if this wasn’t supposed to be a horror/psychological thriller movie, it’d be better off…but it is. So, where’s the horror? We have a dude who drives an ice cream truck and paints his face like the bad guy from that Spawn comic book, and so we can imagine an endless array of potential creepy-clowny type stuff, and then the guy is barely ever on the screen. We have the typical group of young girls, friends of the protagonist and fans of hanging out in their underwear, just like you’d expect from any slasher movie worth its weight in gore, and yet none of them even get attacked, much less killed. And every single instance of a character getting killed (save for one) is quickly turned around and saved, even when it seems there’s no way someone could have survived. Who survives a slit throat? Who is this girl, Clint Malarchuk? I give up.
Kruel is not a horror movie. It isn’t very suspenseful, nor does it utilize what is right there at its disposal to give us something worth writing about. It looks nice, sure, so it’s got that going for it, but that’s pretty much it. Here’s to hoping that Mr. Henderson is able to learn from this, his debut on the horror scene, and come away with some good ideas for whatever he does next. I have no doubt he has skills, but he needs a good story to display them on. Look for Clint Howard in Ice Cream Man before giving this one your time.