Poison (film)

Poison is a 1991 American science fiction drama horror film written and directed by Todd Haynes and starring Edith Meeks, Larry Maxwell, Susan Gayle Norman, Scott Renderer, and James Lyons.

DVD cover
Directed byTodd Haynes
Produced by
Screenplay byTodd Haynes
Based onVarious novels
by Jean Genet
  • Edith Meeks
  • Larry Maxwell
  • Susan Gayle Norman
  • Scott Renderer
  • James Lyons
Narrated byRichard Hansen
Music byJames Bennett
CinematographyMaryse Alberti
Edited by
Distributed byZeitgeist Films
Release date
  • January 11, 1991 (1991-01-11) (Sundance)
  • April 5, 1991 (1991-04-05) (United States)
Running time
85 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$787,280[3]

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 film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 11, 1991. It was released in a limited release by Zeitgeist Films on April 5, 1991.


The three intercut stories that comprise Poison are:

  • Hero: Seven-year-old Richie shoots his abusive 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 (1946).


  • 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 as Chanchi[lower-alpha 1]
  • 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
  • Larry Maxwell as Dr. Graves


Poison had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 11, 1991.[4] Zeitgeist Films later acquired distribution rights to the film.[5] It was released in a limited release on April 5, 1991[6]


The film received generally positive reviews. It currently holds a 76% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 21 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.84/10.[7]

Awards and nominations


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


  1. Credited as Damien Garcia.


  1. "POISON (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 1991-08-15. Retrieved 2013-07-05.
  2. Holden, Stephen (November 8, 1998). "FILM; Focusing on Glam Rock's Blurring of Identity". The New York Times. Retrieved October 23, 2016.
  3. Poison at Box Office Mojo
  4. Lim, Dennis (November 5, 2010). "When 'Poison' Was a Cinematic Antidote". The New York Times. Retrieved October 23, 2016.
  5. Herandez, Eugene (June 26, 2008). "Zeitgeist Films at 20 Years: Building a Boutique Brand". Indiewire.com. Retrieved October 23, 2016.
  6. Canby, Vincent (April 5, 1991). "Review/Film; 'Poison,' Three Stories Inspired by Jean Genet". The New York Times. Retrieved October 23, 2016.
  7. Poison at Rotten Tomatoes
Preceded by
Chameleon Street
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic
Succeeded by
In the Soup
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