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Film / Poison Ivy

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Poison Ivy is a 1992 thriller directed by Katt Shea and starring Drew Barrymore.

Sylvie Cooper (Sara Gilbert) attends a private school in Los Angeles. She doesn't have many friends until she meets Ivy (Barrymore), a student attending the school on a scholarship. She quickly becomes close friends with Ivy and lets Ivy live in her house. However, Sylvie's friendship isn't enough for Ivy; she wants so much more. And whatever Ivy wants, Ivy gets.

This movie was followed by three sequels (two Direct to Video and one Made-for-TV Movie) that were In Name Only. The second film starred Alyssa Milano (Who's the Boss?, Charmed), while the third starred Jaime Pressly (My Name Is Earl) and the fourth and made-for-TV one starred Miriam McDonald (Degrassi).

For the Batman villain of the same name, see this page.


This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Ivy claims her father gets mad at her and throws food and spitballs at her. Ivy also claims her mother never really loved her and neglected her.
    • Sylvie's parents are shown arguing with one another over the mother's addiction to pain medications and suicidal idealizations.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Sylvie, who develops a fixation and close friendship with Ivy. Sylvie herself doesn't know for sure if she truly is gay or not.
  • Antagonist Title: Drew Berrymore's character, the titular Ivy, is the antagonist of the film.
  • Attempted Suicide: Sylvie's mother Georgie contemplates jumping from the balcony windows before being stopped by Sylvie and Ivy.
  • Auto Erotica: Ivy and Darryl share a steamy scene together on the hood of his car.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: At the beginning, Sylvie wishes that she and the mysterious Ivy would be friends. Eventually, she gets more than she bargains for.
  • Big Bad: Ivy, most definitely. Almost every single bad thing that happens is her fault and intentionally.
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  • Bungled Suicide: Sylvie lies to Ivy, claiming that she tried to commit suicide once but failed and is left with the scars on her wrist.
  • Bury Your Gays: The Depraved Bisexual Ivy meets her defeat by plunging to her death during a fight with Sylvie.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sylvie's piano piece for her mother. Ivy hums the melody in the car, which reveals to Sylvie that she was present when her mother fell to her death.
  • Cleavage Window: Actually serves a plot point - because of Ivy's exposed skin, we can see the bruise where she hit the steering wheel, proving she was driving.
  • Cold Open: The film opens with Ivy swinging on a rope and Sylvie narrating about her.
  • Consummate Liar: Both Ivy and Sylvie lie a lot to make up stories about their lives and make each other sound more interesting to people. Sylvie's mother calls her out on this habit.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Ivy who seduces Darryl and his daughter Sylvie to get what she wants.
  • Death by Falling Over: Sylvie's mother Georgie dies by being pushed from her window by Ivy.
  • Disney Dog Fight: Between Sylvie and Ivy. Ivy wins by having trained the dog to respond to a food cue.
  • Disney Villain Death: This happens to Ivy at the end when she's fighting with Sylvie.
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: A climactic scene involves Ivy half dangling off a building, struggling with the protagonist, when her eye is caught by the meaningful necklace the protagonist is wearing and she makes a grab for it. For one of them, it's a good thing that chain wasn't very strong. For the other one, well, *splat*.
  • Driven to Suicide: Sylvie's mother Georgie attempts to commit suicide by jumping from her window. She is stopped by Sylvie and Ivy however.
  • Dye Hard: In-universe example. Sylvie narrates about Ivy having dyed bleach blonde hair that's 6 months past it's prime.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Sylvie's monologue narrating about the rebellious Ivy in the film's opening.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: When Sylvie hears Ivy humming the tune she wrote for her mother's birthday — and realizes that Ivy was with her mother the day she died. This conclusion causes Ivy to freak out and crash the car.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Sylvie can't help but to admit she's probably a lesbian for Ivy when describing her in the opening.
  • Fille Fatale: The titular Ivy who is a teenager and dresses and acts promiscuous to seduce older men.
  • Flower Motifs: In Victorian floriography, ivy symbolizes friendship, affection and fidelity — all of which are cruelly twisted by the title character.
  • Foreshadowing: Early on in the film, Ivy says that if she were to kill herself, she'd like to fall. Guess how she bites it in the climax.
  • Frame-Up: After crashing the sports car, Ivy switches positions with Sylvie and dabs her blood on the steering wheel to make it look like she was driving.
  • Freudian Excuse: Ivy is desperate for the family and love she never had.
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: The male tattoo artist thinks Sylvie and Ivy making up after a brief argument is hot and starts planting kisses on their heads, much to their disgust.
  • Happily Adopted: Sylvie is easily taken in and cared for by her adoptive stepfather Darryl.
  • Hollywood Genetics: Sylvie claims to Ivy that she herself is biracial and that her biological father is a black man which explains her curly hair. Sylvie being portrayed by the caucasian Sara Gilbert makes this claim unbelievable.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Sylvie narrates how she doesn't know if she truly is gay or if she just prefers Ivy.
    Sylvie: I guess she's sort of beautiful. I don't know. Those lips. Lips are suppose to be a perfect reflection of another part of a woman's anatomy. Not that I'm a lesbian. Well, maybe I am. No, definitively not.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Sylvie returns home from the hospital to find Ivy and her father Darryl having sex.
  • It's Personal: After Ivy killed her mother Georgie, Sylvie decides she must stop Ivy.
  • Karmic Death: Because she murdered Sylvie's mother Georgie by shoving her off the ledge from her bedroom window, Ivy meets the same fate by falling from a great height — from the same window during a fight with Sylvie.
  • Lady in Red: Ivy wears a few red outfits in the film to match her evil seductive nature. One is a red dress she uses to seduce Darryl at his party. Another for when they have a steamy moment alone in the rain.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Just like Sylvie's mother fell to her death, Ivy falls to her death. From the same window no less.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Sylvie panics when her father Darryl asks what's her friend's name and calls her Ivy from her poison ivy tattoo on her leg.
  • Love Triangle: Georgie/Darryl/Ivy.
    • Later, Sylvie/Ivy/Darryl.
  • Madonna–Whore Complex: Played up with the contrast between Sylvie (Madonna) and Ivy (Whore).
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Ivy serves this role to Sylvie, representing the 'wild bad girl' that she wishes she could be.
  • Match Cut: The scene where Darryl picks up Sylvie and Ivy from school. Ivy starts to slip off her boots so she could prop her feet comfortably up on Darryl's dashboard and as the boot falls, it cuts away to a boot falling to the ground below as Ivy swing from a rope swing.
  • May–December Romance: The 17-year-old Ivy seduces the 58-year-old Darryl, who could be her father, and is in fact her friend Silvie's father.
  • Mercy Kill: Sylvie first meets Ivy when she calmly kills a dog which had been hit by a car to put it out of its misery.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Ivy murders Sylvie's mother so she can have Darryl, Sylvie's father, all to herself.
  • Never My Fault: When questioned about her mother's death and what were her last words to Ivy before she died, Ivy panics and gets defensive saying how everyone is always blaming her.
  • Never Suicide: After Sylvie's mother's death, everyone believes she had taken her own life as she idealized suicide many times. Unaware that it was Ivy who had actually killed her.
  • No Name Given: Drew Barrymore's character is never given a name and is referred to as Ivy by Sylvie because of the ivy-covered cross tattoo on her leg.
  • Open-Minded Parent: Sylvie told her mother she was a lesbian "just to piss her off". However, Georgie was fine with it, just as long as Sylvie didn't start smoking.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Several break-ups and make-ups between Sylvie and Ivy.
  • Poor Man's Porn: Ivy reveals she went through her father's stuff and found 500 Hustler magazines.
  • Pseudo-Romantic Friendship: Ivy and Sylvie who are close friends and fight like a couple. They sleep in the same bed, share clothes, even sharing a kiss and telling each other they love her.
  • Romantic Rain: Ivy and Darryl have a prolonged steamy scene on the hood of a car, in the rain. They eventually have sex in the house, and Ivy and Sylvie share a kiss all during a thunderstorm.
  • Scholarship Student: Ivy attends an exclusive private school on a scholarship and has to maintain a certain GPA to attend the school.
  • Self-Harm: Sylvie shows Ivy her scars from her accident crashing into a glass door.
  • Sexy Surfacing Shot: Poison Ivy 3 has a shot of Violet rising out of the pool while topless.
  • She's Got Legs: Ivy has long legs and wears skirts to expose them. And she knows how to use them.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Ivy slips sleep aid into Sylvie's mother's drink so that she could seduce Darryl.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Sylvie's mother plays the happy birthday tune Sylvie composed for her on the day she contemplates jumping to her death. Just before Ivy kills her.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: The birthday tune Ivy hums in the car out of nervousness clues Sylvie in on what really happened to her mother and Ivy being responsible for her death.
  • Taking You with Me: Ivy says this when fighting with Sylvie on the balcony. It fails.
  • Theme Naming: All the protagonists of the movies have flower names. The first film has a girl called Ivy, the second Lily, the third Violet and the fourth Daisy.
  • Unreliable Narrator: How much of the lies Ivy and Sylvie tell about one another are true? Did Sylvie really attempt to kill herself once? Did Ivy really grow up in an neglectful abusive household? Was Sylvie really biracial as she claimed? Georgie calls Sylvie out on her habit of lying but Ivy seems desperate to find love in a family, which she is severely lacking.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Ivy pulls one when she is questioned on her involvement with Sylvie's mother before she died and rants to Sylvie how everybody blames her and she thought Sylvie was a real friend.
  • The Vamp: Ivy wants a family, so she decides to murder the heroine's mother and seduce the father in order to achieve her dream.