Warren (Glenn Maynard) lives alone with his pet cat and only really ventures out of the house either to buy essentials from the local convenience store or to go out to work in his ice cream van.

On the first morning that we meet him, he accidentally backs his van over his beloved cat while setting off for work. This is just the beginning of a very bad day.

Heartbroken Warren mopes around his business, spying on local pimp and drug pusher Rocko (Aston Elliot) as he does his stuff on the corner opposite. Unfortunately Warren also catches Rocko’s eye and quickly becomes the subject of his bullying.

Via video diaries that Warren keeps later in the film, we learn that he’s no stranger to bullying: it’s something he’s put up with since school. Which may help explain his nervous disposition, awkward stance around others and isolated existence behind closed doors.

It also helps make sense of why he retreats daily into a television soap opera entitled "Round the Block". He’s particularly infatuated by its female star, Katey (Kyrie Capri). He likes nothing better than to picture himself as the tanned hunk playing opposite her in romantic scenes, and spank his monkey while doing so.

When Katey visits his ice cream van one afternoon, Warren learns that she’s filming nearby. So, despite Rocko’s tormenting getting gradually more offensive, Warren refuses to uproot from this particular pitch, living on the promise that Katey will return to his van one day soon and befriend him.

Of course, none of this is going to end well. Warren may well fancy himself as his idol Clint Eastwood in dreams where he stages Mexican stand-offs against Rocko, but when he inadvertently upsets one of the latter’s girls, the shit is really going to hit the fan.

Factor into this a dual world that Warren exists in – the fantasy relationship he sees developing between him and Katey, and the very real problems he fails to notice his closest pal suffering from – and a breakdown seems inevitable …

Addison Heath's script is funny at times, moving at others. It creates a warm character in the form of Warren, the type that we can easily identify with and root for. Rocko is a less convincingly formed baddie, possibly because - despite moments of perversity and a shock finale - Heath's screenplay is at heart quite a sugar-coated one. Despite a downbeat turn in events, there's a final monologue which supports this notion, as over-baked and sentimental as it is. Still, director Stuart Simpson (he of MONSTRO!) shows great discipline in transferring the uneven tone of Heath's words to the screen with a large degree of fluidity.

He's aided immeasurably by some excellent performers. Maynard is sympathetic and pathetic in equal amounts, fleshing out the lead character with heartbreaking authenticity. He's funny too, which is a boon. The finale is, as mentioned above, a little heavy-handed in its attempt stir mixed emotions – though there is an act of violence which is at once cathartic, troubling and thought-provoking.

The film flirts with styles similar to films like MAY and AMERICAN MARY, in that it presents itself as an indie flick with downtrodden lead characters, alt-pop music and quirky humour at its core. The horror elements are there in the same ‘cool’ manner: whether you’ll enjoy CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRRY VANILLA to any great degree may depend on how you feel about this modern strain of genre pic.

It’s worth a watch though, for Maynard’s stunning performance. He’s in virtually every scene, so it’s fair to say he not only carries the film but elevates it into something more memorable.

Monster Pictures' UK DVD presents the film uncut and in its original aspect ratio. The picture is 16x9 enhanced, and is a very vivid, bright and finely detailed proposition indeed. Boasting strong colours and acutely graded blacks, it's hard to pick any fault with such a sterling presentation.

English audio gets the 2.0 treatment and also offers an extremely reliable playback.

The disc opens to a static main menu page. From there, an animated scene selection menu allows access to the film via 8 chapters.

Extras begin with an audio commentary from the filmmakers, which proffers a fine balance of humour and insight.

A couple of full episodes from fictional soap opera "Round the Block" offer amusing pastiches of "Home and Away" and "Neighbours"-type drivel. Interestingly, Maynard did actually briefly feature in "Neighbours" a few years back …

There’s an interesting short film – 3-and-a-half minutes where a virus causes people to be attacked by monster bats. Maynard is an Elvis impersonator sent to combat them – cue lots of CGI gore and irreverent humour.

Two original trailers for the main feature convey its tone accurately.

We also get a selection of trailers for other titles available from Monster Pictures. Among these are three which are also defaulted to play when the disc first loads up: DARK TOURIST, GUN WOMAN and THE SEARCH FOR WENG-WENG.

CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA offers a flawed, uneven character study that nevertheless entertains effortlessly as a film of more trite concerns. The lead performance is superb, the humour is effective and the finale will successfully pull the rug from beneath your feet.

Also available on blu-ray.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Monster Pictures
Region 2
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review