Poison Ivy (1992 film)

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Poison Ivy
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKatt Shea
Produced byAndy Ruben
Screenplay by
  • Andy Ruben
  • Katt Shea
Story byMelissa Goddard
Music byDavid Michael Frank
CinematographyPhedon Papamichael
Edited byGina Mittelman
MG Entertainment
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release date
  • May 8, 1992 (1992-05-08)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million
Box office$1.8 million

Poison Ivy is a 1992 American erotic thriller film directed by Katt Shea. It stars Drew Barrymore, Sara Gilbert, Tom Skerritt, and Cheryl Ladd. The original music score is composed by David Michael Frank. The film was shot in Los Angeles.

It was nominated for the 1992 Grand Jury prize of Best Film at the Sundance Festival. Sara Gilbert was nominated for Best Supporting Female at the 1993 Independent Spirit Awards. Although it did not fare very well at the box office, grossing $1,829,804 with its limited theatrical release to 20 movie theaters, the film received favorable word-of-mouth, and became a success on cable and video in the mid-1990s. It is the first installment in a film series, which includes three direct-to-video sequels.


Sylvie Cooper is a teenage girl at a private school for the wealthy. At a local hangout, she first meets Ivy, a street-smart but poor, and trashy girl, and witnesses Ivy mercy-killing a heavily wounded dog.

In their second meeting, when Sylvie's father Darryl comes to pick her up, Ivy asks for a ride, and Darryl reluctantly agrees. Ivy makes an excuse to sit in the front with Darryl. She puts her feet on the dashboard and deliberately allows her mini-skirt to fall back onto her hip, revealing her legs, which Darryl notices.

A few weeks later, Sylvie invites Ivy to her house. She tells Ivy that Darryl is her adoptive father and that her biological father is African-American. She also says that she once tried to kill herself. They meet Sylvie's sickly mother, Georgie, whom Ivy later wins over by talking about her scholarship and helping her unblock her oxygen tank.

Soon after, as both of Sylvie's parents enjoy Ivy's company, they practically allow Ivy to move in. Ivy and Sylvie share clothes and sleep in the same bed. As they have similar figures, Georgie lends Ivy some of her clothes.

In an attempt to improve his failing career, Darryl decides to throw a party at his house, and enlists Sylvie to help him. However, Sylvie is needed at work on the night of the party, which is orchestrated by Ivy so that she will be the one to assist Darryl. After the party, she dances with Darryl in the kitchen and they hug. Georgie walks in on them and storms upstairs. Ivy apologizes to Georgie and claims that Darryl was under stress and she was only comforting him. Georgie believes Ivy, accepts a glass of champagne drugged with sleeping pills, and falls asleep. Ivy sits on the bed next to Georgie and begins to massage Darryl with her foot while he kisses her legs.

Over the next few days, Ivy continues changing her appearance and wears Georgie's clothing more often. Sylvie becomes increasingly irritated with Ivy for her growing presence in her family, and her anger reaches a breaking point when even her dog chooses Ivy over her, which in fact is because Ivy has some dog treats in her pockets. Sylvie skips school and tries to spend some time alone. Darryl picks Ivy up and they go into the forest, where she gets him drunk and has sex with him.

The next morning, Georgie plays a cassette tape that Sylvie made for her and walks out onto her balcony. Ivy walks up behind Georgie, talks to her and without warning, pushes her off the balcony to her death. Because Georgie is known to have a mental illness, and has threatened to commit suicide previously, Ivy is not suspected. A few weeks later, Sylvie talks Ivy into going for a ride in her mother's sports car. When Sylvie becomes suspicious of her involvement in Georgie's death, Ivy crashes the car, then moves the unconscious Sylvie into the driver's seat.

In the hospital, Sylvie hallucinates that her mother is sitting in front of her. This inspires her to get back to her house in an attempt to save her father from Ivy. When she gets to her house, there is a raging storm. She runs inside to get out of the rain, experiencing hallucinations all along the way. When she gets inside, she sees Darryl and Ivy having sex and flees the room.

As Darryl runs outside to look for Sylvie, Ivy runs out after him, accidentally revealing that she was behind the wheel due to scarring on her chest. She lies, claiming that it was to protect him. He drives off to find Sylvie and Ivy goes up to Georgie's old room, plays the tape Sylvie made for Georgie, wears Georgie's robe and walks out the balcony. Sylvie sees Ivy and, because of her head injury, believes that it is her mother, and makes her way to the balcony. Sylvie tells Georgie that she loves her and Georgie says she loves Sylvie too. When they kiss, Ivy begins to use her tongue, which breaks Sylvie out of her hallucination. Ivy says Georgie wanted to die and now the three of them can be a family. Sylvie pushes Ivy over the balcony, but Ivy holds onto Sylvie's necklace. The chain breaks and Ivy falls to her death. Darryl returns to see Ivy on the ground with Sylvie above.

The film ends with Sylvie narrating that she still loves and misses "her", following the parallel between Ivy and Georgie.



Producers Melissa Goddard and Peter Morgan bought the original idea to New Line. The studio then hired Katt Shea who had made a number of movies for Roger Corman; according to head of production Sara Risher, the studio wanted "a teenage Fatal Attraction".[1]

The film developed greatly from this premise. There were three different drafts of the script and four different endings.[1] According to Shea, the original ending had Ivy getting away with her crimes and hitch-hiking along a road. However, New Line insisted that Ivy be punished and made her shoot a new ending where Ivy died. New Line then wanted Shea to revive the character for sequels which the director did not want to do; Shea now says she regrets the decision.[2]

Shea says that she never regarded Ivy as villainous, but rather as a tragic character who just wants to be loved. She credits this for the film's popularity.[2]


The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and proved very controversial, in part because it was made by a female director[citation needed]. Shea stated:

I always told New Line it was going to be different from what they thought. I'm out to prove it's possible to make a film that's really artistic, that's an honest expression that comes from me and that can still be commercial. I told them I can only make movies for myself. I just know that if I really love it there's going to be a market for it.[1]

The film gained mixed reviews.[3] It currently holds a 36% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 28 reviews.[4]

The character Ivy was ranked at number six on the list of the top 26 "bad girls" of all time by Entertainment Weekly.[5]



  1. ^ a b c How 'Poison Ivy' Got Its Sting: The studio wanted a teen-age 'Fatal Attraction.' Katt Shea's movie may be more than that. 'Poison Ivy': Art or Exploitation? By LAURIE HALPERN BENENSON. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 03 May 1992: 70.
  2. ^ a b Katt Shea on Poison Ivy at Trailers from Hell
  3. ^ "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Ivy': Family Itchin' for Trouble". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
  4. ^ "Poison Ivy (1992)". rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  5. ^ Bernardin, Marc (29 June 2008). "Lethal Ladies: 26 Best Big-Screen Bad Girls". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 13 January 2009.

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