Sunday, March 11, 2012

Poison Ivy: The New Seduction (Kurt Voss, 1997)

While sitting down to sign her no-nudity clause, did it ever occur to Megan Edwards that they're are perverts out there who find nudity to be embodiment of dull? I wonder. Take, for example, the folds in the cloth of your average tennis skirt. The so-called "accordion effect" causes the perverted person looking at the ripples to become sexually aroused, especially if the pleated garment in question is moving from side to side. And if there's one thing I know about tennis–you know, besides the fact that Kim Clijsters has killer thighs–it's that pleated skirts have a mind of their own. You know, given the fact that they're always in motion when they're out on the court. Oh, hello. In case you're wondering. The pleated tennis skirt I'm currently talking about appears in, of all things, Poison Ivy: The New Seduction, the third chapter in the semi-popular series of erotic thrillers about duplicitous women in their late teens/early twenties who attempt to destroy the lives of wealthy middle-aged men, while, at the same time, try to corrupt the innocence of their teenage daughters. The reason I started off on that whole tangent about the pleated tennis skirt worn by Megan Edwards, and not something more logically sound, like, say, the tight grip of Jaime Pressly's golden thong, the drawn on resplendence of Susan Tyrrell's eyebrows, or even Michael Des Barres' off-kilter handsomeness, was because I was thinking about pleated tennis skirts as I sat down to write this about this non-abomination. Duh. You could also say that I want to build up to those other, decidedly more awesome things; spread them out more evenly over the course of this journey I'm about to embark on, if you will. It's a good idea, because this film, written by Karen Kelly and directed by Kurt Voss, is pretty stingy when it comes to doling out the camp and sleaze. In other words, you better be prepared for those agonizing moments when sex and violence are not the film's primary focus.

Ask anyone who has seen Poison Ivy: The New Seduction what their first thought was when the title "Poison Ivy: The New Seduction" flashes on the screen and I bet the answer will sound something like this, "Why am I watching Poison Ivy: The New Seduction"? As the opening credits continue, you'll notice the last cast member listed is Jaime Pressly, who is given the classic "and introducing" credit. It's during this moment that you finally realized why you started watching this film in the first place. From my perspective, the prospect of watching an erotic thriller starring two of my favourite actors, Susan Tyrrell (Forbidden Zone) and Michael Des Barres (Nightflyers), was something that I was perfectly at ease with. Though, I will admit, seeing Jaime Pressly's name in the credits did put my mind at ease.

We will have to wait at least five more minutes before Jaime Pressly appears onscreen, because it seems that producers of Poison Ivy: The New Seduction have decided to open their film with a flashback to 1985. I know what you're thinking, "but I want to see Jaime Pressly act all evil and junk right now," be patient, she's coming. In the meantime, let's ridicule their pathetic attempt recreate 1985, shall we? The film opens with a pool boy driving his beat up car through a posh L.A. neighbourhood circa 1985. How did I know it was 1985? Well, the radio in his car is playing a baseball game where the announcer repeatedly mentions that it's 1985. And, hey, if the man on the radio says it's 1985, it's 1985.

Planning to do more than clean the pool, the pool boy grabs Rebecca (Athena Massey), the housekeeper for the Greer family, and the two of them proceed to "get in on." As they struggled to take off each other's clothing, I couldn't help but notice that Rebecca's lingerie was totally wrong. The shape of her panties practically screamed Joan Severance's panties in Lake Consequence. (Any Lake Consequence fans in the house? *crickets*) Meaning, her panties were from the future! And not only that, her boobies seemed off in terms of eighties era buoyancy. The only things they did get right was Michael Des Barres' Ray-Ban sunglasses. (If you wan't to look like a bag that contained a plethora of douche-like properties in 1985, you wore Ray-Ban sunglasses.)

The reason we're languishing in this anachronistic reenactment of 1985 is to establish the origins of Violet's bitterness. You see, the reason the eight year-old version of Violet (Teneya Erich) is going to grow up to be a ruthless dominatrix is because her mother, Rebecca, a woman whose hair is surprisingly flat given the fact that "Obsession" by Animotion was currently burning up the charts, is kicked out of the house after she's caught having an affair with the pool boy. It didn't help matters that the affair she was having with Ivan Greer (Michael Des Barres) was exposed to his wife, Catherine Greer (Merete Van Camp), five seconds after the pool boy affair came to light.

Well, Violet's back, and she now looks like Jaime Pressly; if you listen carefully, you can hear the audience gasp as her right foot, which is affixed with a strappy high-heel shoe, sets foot on the Greer driveway for the first time in eleven years. Hoping to reconnect with Joy Greer (Megan Edwards), her best friend back in 1985 (growing up in the same house, they were practically sisters), Violet cautiously approaches the Greer estate and is greeted at the door by their new maid Mrs. B. (Susan Tyrrell). Wait a minute, Susan Tyrrell is playing the maid?!? I was hoping that she might play the sexy aunt or at very least Joy's deranged piano teacher. Oh well. Anyway, wearing a red, belly revealing top, Violet and Joy, who is wearing a white pleated tennis skirt with a light blue top, embrace one another like nothing ever happened (yay! girl hugs!).

Even though she didn't ask, Violet somehow manages to convince Joy's father to let her stay in the guest room, by giving them this sob story about working as a waitress to save up enough money so that she can attend a junior college ("being twenty is hard," she tells Ivan and Joy at one point). And before you know it, Violet is washing herself in a bathtub with swan-shaped fixtures and fittings.

Meanwhile, Joy is in her room combing her hair. Counting each brush stroke (she's at ninety when we catch up with her), it would seem that Joy has an obsessive–compulsive disorder. I wonder if Violet is going to take advantage of that? In case we were having doubts about Violet's intentions, Jaime Pressly flashes the first of her many, "I'm about to do some evil shit" looks at this point in the film. It's a good thing they reminded me that Violet was up to no good, because I was beginning to think that she sincere about wanting to bond with the Greer family. Just kidding, the expression Jaime Pressly wears on her face throughout Poison Ivy: The New Seduction practically oozes trouble; and I mean trouble with a capital 'T,' even I initially spelled it with a small 't.'

If anyone in the audience is still having trouble picking up on Jaime Pressly's "cruel intentions," they show her putting on her dominatrax outfit to quell any lingering doubts surrounding Violet's sinister plans. I didn't need to be told that Violet's personality was a tad unhinged, but I did appreciate the scene from a titillation point-of-view. Gliding her hands along the surface of the fishnet stocking attached to her right leg, Violet makes sure that there are no bumps or creases in the diamond-shaped material. Why is she doing this? Well, she realizes that Joy's boyfriend Michael (Greg Vaughn), who she met at a backyard party for Joy's preppy friends (keep an eye out for Susan Ward, she's the one who mocks Violet for attending a junior college), is frustrated by Joy's lack of enthusiasm when it comes to engaging in sexual intercourse during the mid-to-late nineties, and intends on exploiting this nugget of gossip by seducing Michael with her volumizing ponytail and her leather lingerie (I liked how it made this creaking sound whenever she got up).

Didn't it make you feel a little bit sad when you saw Susan Tyrrell reduced to buttering toast in Poison Ivy: The New Seduction? Of course it did. She should be wearing wild makeup and telling squares to go fuck themselves, not making Jaime Pressly's bed. However, I'll watch Susan Tyrrell in just about anything. And, as I like to say, it looks like I just did. At any rate, while I enjoyed the scenes where Susan's Mrs. B verbally sparred with Jaime's Violet, I thought she was pretty much squandered in this movie.

Unfamiliar with how the fast-forward and rewind buttons work on your media player? Don't fret, the producers of Poison Ivy: The New Seduction are here to lend a helping hand. Hold up, did a pool side Jaime Pressly just drop her robe to reveal her beautiful ass ensnared in a golden thong? Yeah, that just happened. Pretty awesome, eh? What do you mean you weren't paying attention? Well, don't worry, the robe drop is shown multiple times from different angles and at varying speeds. Possessing the temperament of a true artist, editor John Rosenberg (Mannequin: On the Move) molds and shapes the sequence in a manner that will surely satisfy the alarmingly specific whims of every pervert, deviant and weirdo watching at home.

Oh, and just in case anyone was wondering, the reason Violet dropped her robe in the manner in which she did was in order to lay the groundwork for her eventual seduction of Joy's father. And judging by the frazzled expression on Michael Des Barres' face, the enticement-based foundation has been sufficiently laid.

Getting Joy and her friend/tennis instructor Jaimie (Shanna Moakler) drunk (a scene awash with plenty of pleated tennis skirts), chatting openly on the telephone with her one of her dominatrix clients (a conversation Mrs. B purposely overhears), pretending to have lesbian sex with a passed out Jaimie (she tricks her into thinking that they spent the night having kinky sex with one another), performing Red Shoe Diaries-approved heterosexual sex (nipples are deliberately soaked in champagne) on Michael (plus, plant a vile of crack cocaine in his jacket when he's not looking), and gingerly massage Ivan's spreadsheets with her fingers (she treats his spreadsheets like they were his cock and/or poodle), Violet, as you can see, is laying a shitload of groundwork. Whether it pays it off or not, is anyone's guess. But be that as it may, you got to admire Violet's tenacity when it came to messing with these upper class twits. After all, she's here to "play to win," as she often says to herself during moments of evil self-reflection.

People often stop me as I'm, oh, let's say, strolling across College St., or gallivanting along Queen St. West, and tell me, "I wouldn't have taken you for a Jaime Pressly fan." Well, for starters, I think the main reason for their disbelief has a lot to do with Jaime's appearance. When you look at the blonde enchantress from certain angles, she does come off as just another in a long line of fashion models who have tried to make the transition to acting. However, if you stare at her for an inordinate amount of time, you'll notice that there's a fearlessness emanating from her saucer-like eyes. Unafraid to appear foolish, or even downright stupid at times, Jaime's sexiness stems from the fact that she exudes confidence, yet she doesn't come across like a pompous git.

Even though I've yet to come across a vehicle that has been able to properly harness Jaime Pressly's unique talent, Poison Ivy: The New Seduction comes pretty close to capturing her essence as a sentient life form. Just look at the scene where she extracts a sticky dollop of baby boomer sperm from Ivan's aging reproductive system. Sure, a slinky, pucker-free red dress had a lot to do with the successful withdrawal, but it would be foolhardy for anyone to underestimate the power of Jaime's innate allure. How else can you explain the fact that I was rooting for Violet to ruin the lives of characters played by Susan Tyrrell and Michael Des Barres? I mean, do whatever you want to Greg Vaughn's Michael and Megan Edwards' Joy (they're a notch below showroom dummies in terms of charisma). But Miss Tyrrell and Mr. Des Barres? These are my peeps.
If you were to judge Poison Ivy: The New Seduction solely as an instructional guide on how to film Jaime Pressly dropping a robe with her back to the camera, you would have to declare it an unparalleled success. Yet, when evaluated purely as an erotic thriller, my enthusiasm is somewhat subdued. Well, the ending, for starters, was such a letdown (most audience members will no doubt feel gypped). And I thought the scenes that featured Jaime in her dominatrix gear were totally mishandled (the film needed more clear, unobstructed shots of her prancing around in her shiny outfit). So, in closing, I would only recommend the film to hardcore Jaime Pressly fans.

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  1. Epic review! You just earned your Master's Degree in Poison Ivy, congratulations!

    I am getting hyped to watch the three original movies next weekend. Not surprising to hear that the third is kind of a step down and now IMDB says that there's a fourth movie (The Secret Society?!). I just wish the franchise had remained a safe place for former child stars to show they are mature by floozying it up.

  2. @Erik (Drunketh): Ending strong since 1966! ;)

    @CWL: Thanks, CWL. I'll be sure to hang it next to my B.A. in Basket Case.

    Maybe it's because I don't keep up with the so-called acting talent of the day, but I don't recognize a single name in the Poison Ivy: The Secret Society cast. To quote Mamie Eisenhower: "Who are these people"?

    "Floozying it up" is the best way for former child stars to prove their serious about acting.

  3. In the Poison Ivy IV cast: Greg Evigan ("My Two Dads" and "BJ and the Bear") and Catherine Hicks ("7th Heaven"). Uh, yeah, as far as the rest, I'm with you and Mamie Eisenhower.

    As you could imagine, my other half was really excited about this week's EW. (He's a huge fan of Game of Thrones.) Did you see the article on Natasha Lyonne?

  4. @Bill D. Courtney: I'm following now. :)

    @Karim Amir: Catherine Hicks was in that Star Trek movie... you know, the one with the whales. So, yeah, I know who at least one of them is.

    Game of Thrones, eh? I'm more of a Kenny Powers man. ;)

    I wish they would do another "Top 50 Cult Movies" issue, as the one from 2003 seems awfully stale.

    Did I see the article on Natasha Lyonne? Not yet. My issue should arrive on Monday. But thanks for the heads up.