Poison (film)

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DVD cover
Directed by Todd Haynes
Produced by Christine Vachon
James Schamus
Written by Todd Haynes
Based on Novels 
by Jean Genet
Starring Scott Renderer
James Lyons
Edith Meeks
Millie White
Buck Smith
Rob LaBelle
Damien Garcia
Narrated by Richard Hansen
Music by James Bennett
Cinematography Maryse Alberti
Edited by Todd Haynes
James Lyons
Distributed by Zeitgeist Films
Release dates
  • January 11, 1991 (1991-01-11) (Sundance)
  • April 5, 1991 (1991-04-05)
Running time
85 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $250,000
Box office $787,280[2]

Poison is a 1991 American science fiction drama horror film written and directed by Todd Haynes. It is composed of three intercut stories that are partially inspired by the novels of Jean Genet.[A] With its gay themes, Poison is considered an early entry in the New Queer Cinema movement.


The three intercut stories that comprise Poison are:

  • Hero: Seven-year-old Richie shoots his father and then flies away. The story is told in the style of an episode of a tabloid television news magazine.
  • Horror: Told in the style of a "psychotropic horror film" of the mid-1960s, Horror is about a scientist who isolates the "elixir of human sexuality" and, after drinking it, is transformed into a hideous murdering leper.
  • Homo: The story of a prisoner, John Broom, who finds himself attracted to another prisoner, Jack Bolton, whom he had known and seen humiliated as a youth in a juvenile facility. It is an adaptation of part of Genet's The Miracle of the Rose.


  • Scott Renderer as John Broom
  • James Lyons as Jack Bolton
  • Edith Meeks as Felicia Beacon
  • Millie White as Millie Sklar
  • Buck Smith as Gregory Lazar
  • Rob LaBelle as Jay Wete
  • John Leguizamo (credited as Damien Garcia) as Chanchi
  • Anne Giotta as Evelyn McAlpert
  • Lydia Lafleur as Sylvia Manning
  • Ian Nemser as Sean White
  • Evan Dunsky as Dr. MacArthur
  • Susan Gayle Norman as Dr. Nancy Olsen
  • Marina Lutz as Hazel Lamprecht
  • Barry Cassidy as Officer Rilt
  • Richard Anthony as Edward Comacho
  • Angela M. Schreiber as Florence Giddens
  • Justin Silverstein as Jake
  • Chris Singh as Chris
  • Edward Allen as Fred Beacon


Poison was first screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 1991 and later received a limited release in the United States. It was released on Region 1 DVD on October 26, 1999. It is distributed by Zeitgeist Films.


The film received generally positive reviews, currently holding a 76% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[3]

Awards and nominations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The final credits specifically cite Our Lady of the Flowers, The Miracle of the Rose, and The Thief's Journal.


External links[edit]

Preceded by
Chameleon Street
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic
Succeeded by
In the Soup