Poison (1991)


Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.


Want to See

Not Interested

Add Rating
My Rating    

Poison Photos

Movie Info

Todd Haynes' feature debut is structured around three interlocking vignettes. In the AIDS allegory "Horror," filmed in the style of 1950's science fiction B-movies, a scientist (Larry Maxwell) distills the human sex drive into liquid form; in "Hero," told in the documentary style of a tabloid-television report, the exploits of a seven-year-old boy who shoots his father and then flies away are recounted; and "Homo," based on the writings of Jean Genet, is an examination of the prison romance between two male prisoners.

Watch it now


Edith Meeks
as Felicia Beacon
Larry Maxwell
as Dr. Graves
Scott Renderer
as John Broom
James Lyons
as Jack Bolton
Millie White
as Millie Sklar
Susan Norman
as Nancy Olsen (as Susan Gayle Norman
Tony Pemberton
as Young Broom
Andrew Harpending
as Young Bolton
Buck Smith
as Gregory Lazar
Anne Giotta
as Evelyn McAlpert
Lydia Lafleur
as Sylvia Manning
Ian Nemser
as Sean White
Evan Dunsky
as Dr. MacArthur
Marina Lutz
as Hazel Lamprecht
Barry Cassidy
as Officer Rilt
Bruce R. Cook
as Dr. Stick
Richard Anthony Crenna
as Edward Comacho
Kyle de Camp
as Neighbor
Angela M. Schreiber
as Florence Giddons
Edward Allen
as Fred Beacon
Al Quagliata
as Deputy Hansen
Parlan McGaw
as Newscaster
Frank O'Donnell
as Old Doctor
Joe Dietl
as Woman in the Alley
Don Damico
as 1st Doctor/2nd Cop
Rob LaBelle
as Jay Wete
Kyle DeCamp
as Neighbor
Aimee Scheff
as Neighbor
as Nurse
Angela Schreiber
as Florence Giddons
Jim Cagnard
as Bartender
Chris Henricks
as Sleazy Man
Leah Mullen
as Little Girl
Elyse Steinberg
as Little Girl
Bruce Cook
as Dr. Stick
Andrew Bishop
as Child's Hands
Tom McCullough
as Townsperson
Chava Tiger
as Townsperson
Richard Hansen
as Narration
Tony Gigante
as Inspector
Richard Hansen
as Narration
Les Simpson
as Miss Tim
Joey Grant
as Jamoke
Gary Ray
as Canon
Ken Schatz
as Preacher
Matthew Ebert
as 2nd Guard
Michael Silverman
as Foster Father
Michael Shawn Wilson
as Broom (age 6)
Nino Bau
as Fontenal Inmate
Wayne Compton
as Fontenal Inmate
Raymond Dragen
as Fontenal Inmate
John Duffy
as Fontenal Inmate
John McGhee
as Fontenal Inmate
Anthony J. Ribustello
as Fontenal Inmate
Michael Miranda
as Fontenal Inmate
Anthony Rubustillo
as Fontenal Inmate
Jonathan Smit
as Fontenal Inmate
Oscar Tevez
as Fontenal Inmate
John P. Connolly
as Baton Inmate
Gideon Joslyn Brown
as Baton Inmate
John Connolly
as Baton Inmate
Eric Cubano
as Banton Inmate
Dani Michaeli
as Banton Inmate
Matt Ebert
as Guard 2
Michael A. Miranda
as Fontenal Inmate
View All

Critic Reviews for Poison

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (8)

I could have done without the designer prison, but most of the other stylistic conceits work.

Nov 9, 2010 | Full Review…

Arguably the strongest American debut feature of the '90s.

Nov 9, 2010 | Full Review…

Todd Haynes' Poison is a conceptually bold, stylistically audacious first feature, a compelling study of different forms of deviance.

Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Boldly self conscious, Poison switches channels among its three stylistically varied but thematically linked tales with cumulative, claustrophobic power.

Mar 31, 2008 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Compelling and quirkily intelligent; Genet, one feels, would have been impressed.

Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

The movie needs to evoke more than the ghost of Genet to give it resonance.

May 20, 2003 | Rating: 2.5/5

Audience Reviews for Poison


Less a cohesive motion picture than it is a collection of ugly, awkward, poorly-realized scenarios, "Poison" is the visually repulsive and, at times, incomparably bland debut from director Todd Haynes (who would eventually go on to make bigger and much better things) that was a source of extreme controversy during its time. Not only does it not deserve to be talked about or brought up in conversation, but it isn't worth a second of anyone's time. It's unremarkable, self-important, degenerative trash.

Stephen Earnest
Stephen Earnest

Super Reviewer

Three stories about a prison romance, a boy who flies away after killing his father, and a scientist who becomes a leprous sex monster are entwined. I think I could find a way to link these three stories to sexuality, specifically gay sexuality, just as several other reviewers have done, but the acting and writing were so deplorable that it made it difficult to follow the film. I understand that "Horror," the B-movie storyline, was supposed to have bad acting, but there is no such excuse for the other two stories. The performances were so stilted and self-conscious, and it seemed like first-time director Todd Haynes didn't shoot enough takes. Overall, I think there might be something interesting underneath the crappy acting, but I couldn't bring myself to see it clearly.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer


The small budget for this film did not hold back Todd Haynes' big ideas. This is a disquieting, challenging movie that presents us wiith heavy subject matter without offering immediate or obvious explanations. The structure, tone and concept are extremely polished. A great debut.

Mike T.
Mike T.

Super Reviewer

A beautiful, deeply eerie, and disgusting film. This controversial NC-17 movie is a small masterpiece. Story 1: "Hero" Tells the story of seven-year old Richie Beacon, who kills his brutally abusive father, and disappears in a mysterious way, according to his mother. Hero is shot in a documentary style, with interviews from people's accounts on the story and re-enactments. This story was the creepiest to me, especially the shocking and most bizarre ending. Everything in this story felt very real, and it was always convincing. What really happened to Richie Beacon? And most of all...who was he REALLY? Chilling stuff! Story 2: "Horror" Shot in black and white, and plays off like a 50's sc-fi movie. Horror tells the story of a scientist who isolates the elixir of human sexuality, drinks it, and becomes a festering, contagious murderer. This story was fu*king gross. Disgusting and nauseating. But it was great too! It's a love story entangled with sheer terror. Very fascinating...and icky at the same time! Story 3: "The Homo" Revolves around lifelong prisoner John Broom's obsession with fellow inmate Jack Bolten. Told through Broom's thoughts, much of this story within a story is communicated through flashbacks and vignettes that develop the characters of the two men. The Homo is a depressing and revolting story. Amazing character development and storytelling, but very difficult to stomach, especially the "spitting" scene. It's sad, bleak, and uncompromising. This one will leave a bad taste in your mouth. All these stories are told throughout and are in no specific order, although each are linked thematically to make a whole. It's a shocking, and bizarre movie, but yet has lot's of meaning. Great performances and solid storytelling, and great script. A very disturbing movie, but I highly recommend it to people who are looking for something quite different. "Todd Haynes's "Poison" is a vision of unrelenting, febrile darkness. It presents three disparate stories in three greatly varied styles, all inspired by the work of Jean Genet, and its effect, as a whole, is like that of an especially vile infection; it moves diabolically through your system, spreading fever and nausea as it goes." - Washington Post "Poison weaves a trio of disparate stories into a fragmentary, postmodern triptych, one held together (however vaguely)by lurid themes of sexuality, violence, and personal revolt. The movie wants to shock, and it does." - EW "Poison is a very tough, queasy film, but extremely powerful and a strong feature debut for Haynes." - Celebrity Wonder "Many films try to be subversive, try to undermine the status quo in ways large and small (and Haynes is still up to that, to a lesser extent), but few succeed, too often ending in broad strokes or empty campiness (John Waters' films). Poison works because it is unafraid of being shocking, but still has a point to get across, and handles the balance well." - HDFest "Poison is a disturbing film. It will make you uncomfortable, but it also will make you think." - Filmreference "Part horror film, part drama, part expose, Poison is 1991's most controversial film." - Café DVD "Poison is a wholly original, provocative, unsettling and intelligent film that is a must-see for adventurous videophiles." - TLA Video

jd cryptic
jd cryptic

Super Reviewer

Poison Quotes

News & Features