POISON

Writer-director Todd Haynes’ insightful debut feature is a thought-provoking blend of a 50s-style sci-fi/horror film, a ripped-from-the-headlines docudrama, and a gay prison story. A scientist (Larry Maxwell) thinks he’s managed to bottle human sexuality, accidently drinks it, and turns into a “leper sex murderer,” garnering the affection of his new assistant (Susan Gayle Norman) in the process. A 7-year-old Long Island boy killed his father in defense of his mother (Edith Meeks) and reportedly flew away, and a documentary crew explores what led up to this event. A Louisiana prison inmate (Scott Renderer) is drawn to someone (producer/co-editor James Lyons) he knew at a juvenile institute years before. Haynes (“Far from Heaven”, “I’m Not There.”), inspired by and often quoting the works of Jean Geret, has taken three deliberately distinct styles and melded them together to explore love and violence and the effects they have on ordinary lives. The black-and-white cinematography by Barry Ellsworth in the sci-fi story (which is also the most intriguing) is particularly great to look at and completely credible. NOTE: Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival. Look fast for a pseudonymous young John Leguizamo in the prison story. An edited, R-rated version is also available, but pointless.

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