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Available April 24, 2021 7:00 AM UTC
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Pride Award Winner

The debut feature film of director Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, Carol) and producer Christine Vachon (AIFF2021 Rogue Award), this groundbreaking American Indie is a work of immense visual invention and a trailblazing landmark of queer cinema.

Inspired by the writings of Jean Genet, Poison deftly interweaves A trio of transgressive tales-“Hero,” “Horror” and “Homo”-that build toward a devastating climax. “Hero,” shot in mock TV-documentary style, tells a bizarre story of suburban patricide and a miraculous flight from justice; “Horror,” filmed like a delirious ’50s B-movie melodrama, is a gothic tale of a mad sex experiment which unleashes a disfiguring plague; while “Homo” explores the obsessive sexual relationship between two prison inmates.

A runaway hit which made national headlines when it was attacked by right-wing figures including Dick Armey, Ralph Reed and minister Donald Wildmon, Poison is unsettling, unforgettable and thoroughly entertaining. (APRIL 24)


Director’s Statement (1991): Todd Haynes

In Poison, transgression is considered globally in the form of three interwoven stories. And although they’re depicted in distinctly different styles, they are each, ostensibly, the same story. What distinguishes them is not so much in what’s being said as in who’s saying it: who’s telling each story and why. What we learn, for instance, about the monster in a horror film, or of the suspicious subject of a tabloid documentary is very different from what we might learn from Genet, the exiled criminal of Miracle of the Rose. But in all three cases, we encounter a central character that has been shut out by his society as a result of his transgression of certain laws.


Poison’s structure created many challenges, but my primary concern was that it be a source of stimulation for the viewer. Although today’s video-fluent filmgoers experience something very much akin to fragmented narratives every time they flip around the channels on the TV, I still felt it was essential that beneath its braided structure, Poison’s central themes were clearly drawn. With any luck, it’s a film that plays around with the act of telling stories while at the same time asking a few serious questions about the nature of deviance, cultural conditioning and disease.

Selected Filmography:  Far From Heaven, Safe, I’m Not There, Velvet Goldmine, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, The Velvet Underground


  • Year
  • Runtime
    85 minutes
  • Language
  • Country
    United States
  • Director
    Todd Haynes
  • Screenwriter
    Todd Haynes
  • Producer
    Christine Vachon
  • Executive Producer
    James Schamus, Brian Greenbaum
  • Cast
    Edith Meeks, Millie White, Larry Maxwell, Susan Gayle Norman, Scott Renderer, James Lyon
  • Cinematographer
    Barry Ellsworth, Maryse Alberti
  • Editor
    James Lyons, Todd Haynes
  • Music
    James Bennett