New York Times - 04/05/1991
"...A work of original aspirations....Nicely acted..."
USA Today - 04/12/1991
"...There's raw talent obviously in evidence..."
A.V. Club - 12/07/2011
"[T]he film was a genuine underground hit, a victory for the outsiders it championed." -- Grade: B+
In director Todd Haynes's feature film debut, POISON, three stories, each told in their own unique cinematic style, illustrate the lives of a people living outside the fringes of "normal" society. There is HERO, the pseudo-documentary about a seven-year-old boy who kills his own father; HORROR, a sci-fi spoof about a brilliant research scientist who becomes the victim of his own biochemical discovery when he finds the source of the human sex drive; and HOMO, a noirish drama exploring the obsessive, and sexual, relationship between two male prisoners. As each compelling story is told, their themes become inextricably linked, and the tension intensifies, culminating in an explosive climax of unsettled emotions. POISON is perhaps Todd Haynes most experimental, and most controversial, film.
Part horror film, part drama, part exposť, POISON is a starkly original, provocative film that weaves together three stories. In one, a doctor turns into a strange creature after discovering the source of the human sex drive; in another, two prisoners become entangled in an obsessive relationship. There is also the story of a seven-year-old who commits murder, leaving his family and the town to wonder if that wasn't such a bad thing after all. Dark, funny, and fascinating, POISON is an anthology of stories each told in a different cinematic style, but connected like an insane, imaginative jigsaw puzzle.
POISON was named one of the top 10 films of 1991 by Film Comment.
"Homo," in POISON, is based on three stories by author Jean Genet, primarily his THIEF'S JOURNAL.
The film received the Grand Jury Prize at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival, while prompting walk-outs during screenings.
Tony Pemberton, who plays the young Broom, is also a film director, whose credits include BEYOND THE OCEAN, DESCRIPTION OF A STRUGGLE, and PARADISE IS.
James Lyons, who plays Jack Bolton, is also the editor for POISON and another Todd Haynes film, SAFE.
Director Todd Haynes previously made SUPERSTAR: THE KAREN CARPENTER STORY using a cast of Barbie dolls. His short film DOTTIE GETS SPANKED was part of the "Avant Garde Visions" program screened at the 1993 New York Film Festival.
POISON is available in both NC-17 and R rated versions, but is very difficult to obtain due to its controversial themes.