When reviewing a movie I try to avoid comparisons outside the films genre. After all, it is not fair to compare the typical movie to Citizen Kane or Gone with the Wind. As such, in reviewing Poison Ivy it is important to remember the type of movie it is a melodramatic, low budget soap opera. When considered in this light the movie is fairly well constructed. The story centers a around a young girl that is not one of the in crowd in high school. She is sullen, rebellious and lonely. One day she meets another girl that looks like the school slut and is very much a wild child. The other girl befriend the first girl and soon infiltrates her life and family.
The cast is better than this type of movie usually sports. Sara Gillbert (Rosanna TV show) plays Silvie, the only child of a TV news manager (Tom Skerritt) and an invaild mother (Cheryl Ladd). The wild girl that befriends Silvie is Ivy, played to a tee by Drew Barrymore. Every move, every action of Ivys is calculated for long term effect. First she befriends Silvie, then she moves into their home and eventually becomes seen almost as a second daughter. That is not enough for her, she sets out to first replace the daughter and ultimately, the wife. Barrymore carries this role very well. She can shift from feigned innocence to Machiavellian delight in an instant. Gillberts performance is a bit bland but it seems to fit in this role. The adult roles held by Skerritt and Ladd are underplayed almost to the point of the ridiculous but their acting skills show even in a less stature movie such as this.
The direction by Katt Shea Ruben is surprisingly good. The use of the camera, the set up of each frame has a bit of poetry to it. The innate talent of this director is apparent albeit not fully developed. Many scenes give the appearance of a painting set before the viewer. This gives an odd contrast to the story and performances that does seem to work. Given a better script I think everyone involved could have done better. As it is the movie has more of a made for TV feel.
The DVD is from New Line Cinema and shows this excellent heritage. The movie is presented in the unrated and R rated forms in both letterboxed and pan and scan versions. This is what a DVD was created to produce different versions on the same disc. The video transfer was flawless. The picture faithfully provides movie house clarity. The sound is also note worthy. Both Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 versions are provided. The 5.1 has far more depth but in this type of film the surround speakers and sub woofer are not fully utilized. All in all, a worth while film far better than the two sequels that followed.