San Francisco, California
London, United Kingdom
USA | 1991 | Fiction | 85 minutes
Writer and Director: Todd Haynes
Producer: Christine Vachon
Cinematographer: Maryse Alberti
Editor: Todd Haynes, James Lyons
Composer: James Bennett
Cast: Edith Meeks, Millie White, Buck Smith, Anne Giotta, Lydia Lafleur, Ian Nemser
Made during the “family values” wars of the first Bush administration, Todd Haynes’s feature filmmaking debut Poison was both critically successful – winning the grand prize at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival – and controversial. It became the focus of an attack by Reverend Donald Wildmon, who assailed the NEA for partially funding the film. Drawn from the writings of Jean Genet, Poison interweaves a trio of transgressive tales that build toward a devastating climax: “Hero,” shot in mock TV-documentary style, tells a bizarre story of suburban patricide and a miraculous flight from justice; “Horror,” filmed like a delirious ’50s B-movie melodrama, is a gothic tale of a mad sex experiment which unleashes a disfiguring plague; while “Homo” explores the obsessive sexual relationship between two prison inmates.
Producer bio: Poison was the first feature-film collaboration between Todd Haynes and Christine Vachon; they have since collaborated on all of Haynes’ films. Vachon met Haynes while both were students at Brown University. Since Poison, Vachon has become one of the most prolific producers in American independent cinema, with films including Boys Don’t Cry, Happiness, I Shot Andy Warhol, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and One Hour Photo. In 1996, she co-founded the production company Killer Films, where projects have included the HBO version of Mildred Pierce, directed by Todd Haynes. Vachon has written two books about filmmaking: Shooting to Kill and A Killer Life: How an Independent Film Producer Survives Deal and Disasters in Hollywood and Beyond.