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Masters of Horror

"We All Scream for Ice Cream"

Episode 2.10 (Jan. 12, 2007)

Lee Tergesen played Layne Bannixter in "We All Scream for Ice Scream," an installment in the Showtime anthology series "Masters of Horror." The series consists of 13 one-hour telefilms written and directed by some of the big names in the horror genre.

Lee's episode was directed by Tom Holland and written by David Schow, who also penned the story for "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning." It's based on a short story by John Farris, called "I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream, for Ice Cream." (A summary is at the end of this page.) 

"We All Scream for Ice Cream" was filmed during mid-July 2006 in Vancouver, Canada. The story is set in Pittsburgh, Pa., although the original short story was set in Tennessee.

The official synopsis from Showtime describes the story: 

Years ago, a youthful prank by a gang of kids known as the West End Bunch went seriously wrong. Now grown up and a parent himself, former West-Ender Layne Banixter witnesses the friends of his youth systematically murdered by their own children, who have inexplicably turned against them. In order to save his family, Layne must face long-buried fears and the realization that sometimes the sins of the fathers are visited upon the son. 

The TV presentation stayed pretty true to John Farris' short story, so it was not bloody horror, but more supernatural type of suspense -- with some gory ice-cream-melting thrown in.

"The deaths are pretty gory, but they're fun gory," director Tom Holland said in an interview in Fangoria magazine. "One of the worries about the show, because it's a character piece, actually, is that we have to have enough effects to satisfy the hard-core fans. ... But this isn't a scare-the-shit-out-of-you show. It has a sweetness to it."

In another interview, Holland said: "I think this is a jewel, an hour jewel. I think this will be about performance and character, believe it or not. I don't think I'm going to create a new level in psychological suspense/terror with this one, but I think there's a chance you might be moved by the performances."

Schow applauded the performances, too, and noted in particular that "Lee Tergesen was a revelation; he gave us a very credible Layne."

Lee-as-Layne has tons of screen time in this one-hour drama. It's a rare role where (except for the long-ago lapse in judgment) he plays a solid citizen. He's had a successful career and he lives in a grand house with his loving wife, Angela (played Ingrid Tesch), and kids MaryLyn and Toby.  

The villain is Buster the clown (played by William Forsythe), who does have a sympathetic side. There's the evil clown out for posthumous revenge, but there's also the mentally challenged ice cream man that Buster was before the accident. 

The Fangoria magazine article notes that "Masters of Horror" directors face a great challenge: getting a feature-quality show without feature-caliber time and budget. 

Holland had the added challenge of filming a story that takes place mostly at night during the height of a particularly sunny summer in Vancouver.

The episode was filmed primarily on location, but Holland moved production into a soundstage to shoot the climax. This wass necessary, Fangoria notes, "because the climax involves some pretty heavy visual FX. Grass, trees and other props have been brought in to replicate the exterior driveway where the final showdown takes place between our hero and a killer clown from beyond the grave."


The "Masters of Horror" installment is based on a short story by John Farris titled "I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream." (The story is included in a collection titled "Elvisland.")

Farris is the author of 36 novels and his official Web site is co-maintained by David J. Schow, who wrote the screenplay for the "Masters of Horror" adaptation of the story and co-wrote the screenplay for "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning."

The story's main character is Layne Bannixter (Lee's role), who has recently returned to his hometown of Cromartie, Tennessee. He's an engineer who has lived all over the world building bridges and such, but now has come home to settle down with his wife, Angela, and his kids -- MaryLyn, 8, and Toby, 5. 

However, all is not well. People are disappearing -- notably, members of Layne's old bunch of friends from when he was a kid.

The story describes a creepy night scene of kids gathered, eating ice cream cones, looking spooky. Layne hears the tune of the Cheer-i-o Ice Cream truck in the distance. It gives him chills -- and it's not from the ice cream.

Layne recalls the old ice cream man from his youth, Buster Dockins, who was "a little slow" and had a natural clown's face. Kids teased him; older ones tricked and cheated him. Apparently one fateful day, a trick went awry and Buster was killed. Layne had a central part in the accident. (In the Showtime production, the young actor who plays Layne as a boy in flashbacks is a terrific match for Lee.)

In the present time, members of the old gang continue to vanish. At the scene of one disappearance, there's just some slimy stuff on the ground that looks like melted ice cream.

The Showtime version gives us the very graphic visual of the town bully, Virgil (Colin Cunningham), having a melt-down -- much to Layne's horror. 

Layne sends his kids and wife away so he can do battle with the ghost of Buster Dockins. But when the showdown comes, the ice cream man has abducted the kids and Layne has to protect them as well as destroy Buster. There are explosions and collisions. Hell freezes over, etc.

The "Masters of Horror" budget did not allow for the staging of the elaborate climax that the short story describes, but it winds up very similarly. However, the TV version does leave the tale a little more open-ended than the short story.






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