Blu-ray Review: Poison Ivy Collection

The impact from the death of the videostore hasn’t really been explored since the natural reaction is “I can just rent discs from Redbox” or “But Netflix Streaming filled that space in my life.” That’s pretty much true for the renter’s experience just shifting to how they get their home video. You can get all the big Hollywood hits in the machine in the entrance of Walmart without getting that judgement stare from the snob working at Blockbuster. The deeper impact is felt by the selection or things you can no longer select like you did at Videorama. The Poison Ivy Collection would not exist if it had started in this post-Blockbuster age. The original movie wasn’t a hit in the theaters, but took off as a steady rental VHS in 1992. That was back when a video distributor could charge $70 or more for a VHS tape. This made the film’s backers very happy. They were happy enough that they could make two more Poison Ivy films and offer them straight to the videostores for a tidy profit. But the first shift happened after 1997 with the introduction of DVDs which meant it only cost a videostore $20 or less for a DVD to put on their rental shelf. The profit margin shriveled up fast so the last thing they cared about was cranking out more straight to video entries. Indeed the last title in this boxset was made as a Lifetime movie.

Poison Ivy (1992) was a sensation when it came out because Drew Barrymore was just out of rehab from her trouble pre-teen partying life. This was the first grown up role for the little girl from E.T and Firestarter. From the time she swings into the film, you know Drew has grown up a lot. She’s a dangerous teen girl who becomes pals with Sylvie Cooper (Sara Gilbert), a rich girl with issues since her dad (Alien‘s Tom Skerritt) is a conservative blowhard on TV and her mom (Charlie’s Angels‘ Cheryl Ladd) is bedridden on oxygen. Ivy becomes her friend and then grows into the family as she hangs at their mansion. Dad is all eyes and hands for Ivy which really isn’t good for his image. Ivy comforts the mother, but seems bent on replacing her. Director Kat Shea creates a family that doesn’t know what it released when Sylvie brought her new friend home. Barrymore was the big winner since she made everyone forget that she was that cute little kid that hung out with the friendly alien. She was a hurricane and a lot of people ran down to the Video Bar to rent the tape.

Not to spoil the ending of Poison Ivy, but Poison Ivy II: Lily (1996) has none of the cast from the original. It’s a whole new family and single girl yet the same amount of trouble. Alyssa Milano is Lily, she’s an art student sharing a house with other students. She finds Ivy’s old notebook and becomes obsessed with the writings. She gets a job babysitting the daughter of one of her teachers (The Walking Dead)’s Xander Berkeley). Naturally this leads to a lot of intimate trouble as she lives Ivy’s life with the exception that the teacher’s wife isn’t lying on her death bed. Will she meet Ivy’s fate as she plays with fire inside the family’s house? Poison Ivy II: Lily is a pretty tight budget. They don’t even bring back Drew Barrymore to read Ivy’s letters. Milano at this time was still trying to outgrow her image as the cute daughter on Who’s The Boss. She immediately shows that she’s grown up as her wardrobe gets skimpy and falls to the floors during her scenes with the teacher. Like the original, there was a lot of rental action of the Unrated VHS tape at West End Video. Although if you tried to watch it with pals, someone would start impersonating Tony Danza during Milano’s erotic moments.

Poison Ivy: The New Seduction (1997) is sort of an Ivy origins story except it isn’t. Back in 1985, Ivy and her sister Violet are living with their mother who is the housekeeper to a rich family with a daughter who is their pal. Well one afternoon, the dad comes home early and discovers the housekeeper hooking up with a guy. Dad (Heroes‘ Michael Des Barres) is furious because he’s also having an affair with the housekeeper. This escalates when the mother realizes that her husband is boning the housekeeper. This leads to a lot of fireworks and the young girls getting a sense that things aren’t going to be the same. Year later Violet (now played by My Name Is Earl‘s Jaime Pressly) returns to see her pal Joy. She’s working and going to the local junior college. Joy offers her old pal a chance to sleep in her dead mom’s bedroom. This is not a good thing because Violet is there to destroy everything this family holds sacred. She gets her revenge one sadistic trick at a time. But will she meet a better fate than her sister Ivy at the end? Once again the key to selling the latest installment of the Poison Ivy saga was offering up the Uncut VHS tape in addition to the R-rated. Who merely rented the R-Rated version? It’s not like you could show it at a 10 year old’s birthday party?

After the third installment, the video world shifted with the arrival of DVD that made the dynamics of the straight to video world no longer a gold mine for makers of low budget films. But Poison Ivy wasn’t completely over. In 2008 Lifetime ran Poison Ivy: The Secret Society. Turns out Ivy’s power has grown so that she’s now a secret society. Daisy (Degrassi: The Next Generation‘s Miriam McDonald) is an orphan who comes to an elite New England private college from Iowa. She’s recruited by the Ivy Society that offers a major scholarship to a special gal. Part of getting into the club is getting drunk and tattooed with the same design as Ivy had in the first film. She quickly learns that Azalea (The American President‘s Shawna Waldron), the head of the society is nuts and will do anything. Will Daisy get seduced by the life of an Ivy? While the film originally played on cable, the home video version was unrated with nearly 5 more minutes of footage that wasn’t safe for Lifetime viewers.

The Poison Ivy Collection is a great warning as to why you need to stop your daughter’s wild friend from coming over to the house. But in the movie, the husbands are useless when it comes to avoiding the temptation of a barely legal young lady stepping through the front door. This is a quartet of tawdry violence with bad things happening to those who can’t control their libido. The original Poison Ivy is the best of the bunch with Drew Barrymore setting the bar as Ivy. She becomes the perfect bad role model for others to emulate on the screen. The Poison Ivy Collection will seduce you to losing a weekend on the sofa.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic for all four films. Although since the last three films were for home video in the CRT era, they were originally only seen 1.33:1. This is the best they’ve ever looked. The resolution upgrade brings out the details in Drew’s seductions. The audio is DTS-HD Stero. You’ll hear a lot of deep breathing. The movie is subtitled.

Unrated and R-rated Cuts are offered for the first three films. You can only see the last film uncut. Why would you watch the R-rated?

Audio Commentary with director Kat Shea is on the rated Poison Ivy. She talks about working with the amazing cast and the rather tight budget. She came out of the Corman school of filmmaking so she knew how to work so low to the bone.

Trailers are provided for each film.

Scream Factory presents The Poison Ivy Collection. Directed by Katt Shea, Anne Goursaud, Kurt Voss & Jason Hreno. Screenplays by: Andy Ruben, Katt Shea, Karen Kelly, Liz Maverick, Peter Sullivan & Michael Worth. Starring: Drew Barrymore, Sara Gilbert, Cheryl Ladd, Alyssa Milano, Jaime Pressly & Miriam McDonald. Rated: R & Unrated. Boxset Contents: 4 Movies on 4 Blu-ray Discs. Released: February 12, 2019.

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