Poison | Chicago Reader


Rated R 86 minutes 1991

This 1991 avant-garde shocker by Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven) freely cuts between three supposedly separate stories, each in a different style and set in a different period: a 40s tale of homoerotic passion in a prison that's loosely derived from Jean Genet, a black-and-white 50s SF-horror melodrama about a leprous sex criminal, and an 80s TV exposé about a victimized seven-year-old boy who murders his father. The film produces poetic jolts and visual-thematic rhymes that somehow unify the disparate strands into a single galvanizing experience. Haynes starts with a title—"The whole world is dying of panicky fright"—and then proceeds to show exactly what he means, illustrating the kind of fear that produces and promotes victimization both in society and in the minds of social outcasts. I could have done without the designer prison, but most of the other stylistic conceits work. With Edith Meeks, Larry Maxwell, Susan Norman, Scott Renderer, and James Lyons (who also served as coeditor).

Film Credits

Director: Todd Haynes

Writer: Jean Genet

Producer: Brian Greenbaum, James Schamus and Christine Vachon

Cast: Edith Meeks, Larry Maxwell, Scott Renderer, Millie White, Buck Smith, Anne Giotta, Susan Norman, Al Quagliata, Michelle Sullivan, James Lyons, John R. Lombardi, Tony Pemberton and Andrew Harpending

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