Plot: Poison weaves three narrative threads, moving between the stories at will, though the tales never directly intersect. A man’s sexual research leads to an amazing discovery, one that allows for the sex drive to be isolated and manipulated, but his work leads to some horrific side effects. He finds himself stricken with a kind of leprosy, which soon begins to spread and sends the public into a mass panic. Another story focuses on a young man named Richie, who is believed to have killed his own father and if his mother is to be believed, has some strange qualities. The third narrative takes place in prison, where two men reunite after years apart and while one man struggles with his attraction to his old friend, his affections seem to be unreturned. While the three don’t overlap in terms of literal narrative, the tone and underlying themes ensure they fit together quite well as a larger work.
Entertainment Value: This is a dark, often unhinged experience, one that sticks with you long after the credits have rolled. This one elicits a wide scope of reactions and I can see why some wouldn’t appreciate the movie, but I think Poison is an interesting, unique creative effort. If you’re familiar with the work of Todd Haynes, the usual signatures are all present and as this was his first feature, they’re presented in a more raw, unrefined state than his later pictures. This is a common point of criticism, as it is clear what he wants to show us, but some feel like because there’s only loose bonds and no strict “why” involved, that is a flaw. I disagree, as I think Haynes crafts a dark vision that has clear intentions and art doesn’t always a “why,” at least in my opinion. Yes Poison is abrasive and can be tough to watch for some, but the journey is a creative, bold one and I find a lot to appreciate here. At the same time, it is rather rough around the edges and while more linear than you might think, is more of a puzzle than some viewers want to engage with. So I can see both sides of the fence on Poison, but for me, I think it is an interesting and worthwhile cinematic effort.
The movie is driven by sexuality in one sense or another, but even in the uncut version of Poison, nudity is brief and the sex is non graphic. So a couple bare asses and very brief peeks at more sensitive parts, but this is all quite tame as far as nakedness, though the themes explored aren’t so tame. There is an intense sexual encounter that happens in the prison thread, but it is focused on the facial expressions and reactions of the characters, not the actual act itself. No blood, but the leper storyline involves some mild makeup effects that look a little gross. I love that entire thread, as it has such an old school b movie vibe, down to the look of the makeup effects. A sexual encounter of questionable consent happens in the prison thread and some mild violence is shown, but no blood and the violence isn’t graphic. The dialogue is fine and mostly well written, though some will likely find to be pretentious at times. But not much wild or outlandish dialogue happens, aside from a few quirky lines here and there. Poison earns some solid craziness points however, with a dark, almost surreal texture that coats the entire movie and some jaw dropping moments sprinkled around.
Overall Insanity: 6/10