Inspired by three of Jean Genet’s novels, Poison is composed of three intercut stories: a boy who shoots his father and flies out the window; a doctor who accidentally ingests his experimental sex serum, wreaking havoc on the community; and a man who falls in love with a fellow inmate in prison.
Because of the Poison’s gay themes, several of conservative religious leaders were against it. Reverend Donald Wildmon called for the firing of the chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, which had given Poison director Todd Haynes a $25,000 grant. Baptist Church spokesman Jim Smith, meanwhile, said that there are productions on America’s Funniest Home Videos that are “more artistically meritorious” than Poison.
Despite all the criticisms from various religious groups, Poison actually received generally positive reviews from film critics, with Rotten Tomatoes’ critics’ consensus calling the movie “claustrophobic and quirky horror” and “a decently dirty” directorial debut for Haynes.