When you looked at the box cover/poster for this film, did you start thinking, “Citizen Kane?” If you did, then I suggest a trip to the doctor, because there’s something hopelessly wrong with you. “Poison” is an erotic thriller, and an “R rated” one at that. (The difference between a “rated” and “unrated” erotic thriller is anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes of extra nudity/sex, for those who cares.) “Poison” is the kind of erotic thriller that ran out of steam sometime in the late ’90s, and has all but died now. For reassurance that this genre has in fact died see the painfully generic “Killing Me Softly”, which proves that even big names and a big budget can’t resurrect the dead.
“Poison” stars Kari Wuhrer (TV’s “Sliders”) as Ann, a vengeful wife who insinuates herself into an unsuspecting family that she blames for her husband’s suicide. The family is led by Nicole (Barbara Crampton), who is the object of Ann’s hatred because it is Nicole’s promotion that got Ann’s husband fired. (Although Nicole doesn’t know this, and has no idea who Ann is.) While working as the family’s housekeeper, Ann uses everything she has (including her wondrous body) to lure the family to ruin and damnation, and in the end, fun is had by all. Well, almost.
The director of “Poison” is Jay Andrews, who also goes by Jim Wynorski when he was doing erotic films in the ’90s. That in itself should tell you about the pedigree of “Poison.” The body of work by its director notwithstanding, there’s another body that deserves mention here. And that is the body of Miss Kari Wuhrer, who leaves little to the imagination and thank God because there’s nothing else about “Poison” to hang onto.
If the movie’s premise sounds familiar, think “Hand” and “Cradle” and “Rock.” As it is, the “sexy woman who joins a dysfunctional family and seduces everyone” is a familiar premise with 1990s erotic thrillers. The acting in “Poison” is appropriately weak and laughable, so there is also no surprise here. (To be honest, the acting in the big budget “Killing Me Softly”, with its named actors and director, is just as bad and laughable, so there you have it.) But then again, who watches “Poison” for the acting? There is only one real reason to watch “Poison” and that’s to see exposed flesh. But frankly even that is somewhat lacking. (Let me get this straight. An erotic thriller that has almost no nudity? Color me shocked and disappointed.)
Actually, the best thing about this DVD version of “Poison” is the running audio commentary by director Wynorski, star Jeff Trachta (Scott), and cinematographer Andrea Rossotto. The trio speak very frankly about the “quality” of their film and have a ball doing it. You have yet to live until you’ve heard a director take his own film apart scene-by-scene, frame-by-frame, leaving very doubt how he feels about the (lack of) greatness involved. Does all of it come across as mean? Sure, if you’re in love with “Poison” the film. But if you just like to be entertained, the commentaries make “Poison” worthwhile. Jim Wynorski alone is worth it. (Trachta, who plays a father in the film, confesses that he was only 28 at the time and his character is supposed to be the father of two 18 year olds!)
What else is there to say about “Poison” the movie? There is very little action, although the film features two explosions courtesy of stock footages. The dialogue seems to go on forever and is as silly as they come. There is no tension, and the movie is quite dull in-between disrobing (of which there aren’t nearly enough). Barbara Crampton (Nicole) and Kari Wuhrer (Ann) are the only decent actors in the whole movie, and that’s not saying much considering the cast they have around them.
But I didn’t go into “Poison” expecting a lot, and didn’t get a lot as a result. Wuhrer is attractive and a feast for the eyes, but there were a couple of missed opportunities to give us even more of her. Odd, considering Wynorski’s background in erotic thrillers, but there you have it.
Jim Wynorski (director) / Sean O’Bannon (screenplay)
CAST: Kari Wuhrer …. Ann
Jeff Trachta …. Scott
Barbara Crampton …. Nicole
Melissa Stone … Darla Garrett
Seth Adam Jones … David Garrett
Jay Richardson … Mr. Slider