Content: -4 Gross immorality, and/or worldview problems.

What You Need To Know:

Winner of the Sundance Film Festival dramatic competition, the film POISON examines various forms of deviant, anti-social behavior in its three segments, "Hero," "Horror," and "Homo." The three segments, although cleverly arranged, prove to be befuddled and disgusting, and contain explicit homosexuality and homoerotic sodomy, as well as scatological behavior. Writer-director Haynes tries, but fails to fashion his film in the style of French Playwright Jean Genet whose absurd, mechanistic universe highlighted the helpless, subservience and alienation of man.


(SSS, NNN, VVV, LL, Ap, M) Graphic sodomy, including anal intercourse and genital fondling; extensive male nudity; 20 obscenities and a few profanities; child abuse; blasphemy; and, scatological references and scenes.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The first big affront to morality in 1991 is the movie POISON which was funded in part by taxpayer money. The homosexual film director received a $25,000 grant last year from the National Endowment of the Humanities. The chairman of the NEA, John H. Frohnmeyer, and “politically correct” critics have defended POISON as a serious work of art.

The question that no one seems to understand is that there is a difference between censorship (which is legitimate in cases of obscenity as the Supreme Court has frequently ruled) and sponsorship which is forcing taxpayers to pay for obscene material. Evidently, American taxpayers feel obligated to pay for such homoerotic garbage, although the United States Constitution and every legal precedent would mitigate against supporting homoerotic art (or any art for that matter).

Why we put up with financing such material which destroys the moral foundation of our country is a puzzle. It is reminiscent of National Socialist Germany, wherein Dr. Goebbels convinced the people of Germany to pay for obscenities, grotesqueries and the attempted elimination of the Jewish people. Like the German people, we are all too ready to assume that we are powerless to do anything about this perversity and that the other side might be right.

The fact is that the other side is wrong, God’s word is clear on these issues, and we are not powerless. Many Christian organizations that are much bigger and better equipped than MOVIEGUIDE, such as the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America and the Christian Coalition, are fighting the NEA and the use of tax dollars to fund obscenity and blasphemy. Please support them, and please write the President, your Senator and your Congressman asking them to remove John E. Frohnmeyer and to control the funding of the NEA.

It should also be noted that the NEA recently gave $15,000 to actress and playwright Holly Hughes to write a play with a lesbian theme involving two minor, pubescent girls, black and white, about 12-years-old, as the main characters.

Aptly labelled, the film POISON depicts man in revolt against everything that renders him helpless, subservient and alone. In particular, writer-director Todd Haynes draws from French playwright Jean Genet and his view of an absurd, mechanistic universe. Hence, through its intimate look at three societal outcasts in segments entitled “Hero,” “Horror” and “Homo,” this Sundance Film Festival winner by homosexual director-writer Haynes attempts to prove his point.

Through an original combination of means, Haynes’ film examines different forms of deviant behavior, presenting them with humor and surprise. The director expects to shock, or at the least, startle, the viewer.

The first segment, “Hero,” is the weakest of the three story strands. It focuses on a housewife’s disconnected account of how her 7-year-old son, Richie Beacon, flew through the second story window to heaven after he killed his father who was going after Richie’s mother with a lamp after finding her fornicating with the Hispanic gardener.

“Hero” features mock, “60 Minutes,” documentary-style interviews with the boy’s mother, neighbors, teachers, and classmates in an attempt to piece together the possible reasons for his misguided deed. A 7-year-old friend tells how Richie manipulated him into play acting sadomasochistic games where one would play a father who would take the other over his knee and spank him. It should be against the law to have a child play a part like this which could scar him for life. Perhaps the parents should sue the NEA. This is definitely child abuse.

Furthermore, the mother is cruelly satirized in this segment and portrayed as a typical 1950s suburban housewife with mushroom wall ornaments and tacky furniture.

The following section, “Horror,” is a thinly veiled parable about AIDS. Here, the director chooses a 1950’s “B” picture, sci-fi approach to relate the sad story of a scientist who believes that science is man’s sacred quest for truth and wants to better mankind by isolating the source of the human sex drive, but upon drinking the fluid, he becomes horribly disfigured and murderous.

The scientist becomes a sexual leper, like an AIDS carrier, who passes the disease to others he loves. Often the reference to AIDS in this sequence is so thinly veiled that it is embarrassing, as when the scientist communicates the disease to a female admirer and she screams, “How come you didn’t tell me! How come you didn’t tell me!” In fact, this section is an unintentional joke about the modern fear of AIDS.

In the end, refuting those who ignore their own sin, the scientist notes, “Pride is the only thing that will help you stand up to misery,” in a misguided statement endorsing the source of all sin.

The final segment, “Homo,” turns out to be the most graphic and the most revealing of the three stories. In this direct representation of the Genet universe, “Homo” scrutinizes an obsessive relationship between a hardened criminal and a new arrival in a 1940s French prison. The film looks beyond the prison to the plight of homosexuals and the AIDS problem. Photographed in sordid surroundings, this segment builds a creepy, but seductive mood of seething, violent homoeroticism as one prisoner stalks another in an episode spiked with multiple scenes of rear-entry intercourse and one of genital fondling. As one prisoner notes, “in submitting to prison life, I could reject the world that rejected me.”

One prolonged scene of sodomy and male nudity right on the screen was so close-up that the reviewer had to turn away. Furthermore, a five-minute flashback to a bucolic garden in reform shcool where little boys are spitting into another little captive’s mouth in a sadomasochistic, homoerotic beating, disgusted the entire audience.

Filmmaker Haynes quotes Jean Genet in titles throughout the film. One quote sums up the perversity of the film, “The most sordid signs became for me the signs of grandeur.” Another serves as a punch line, “A man must dream for a long time to act with grandeur. And, dreaming is nursed in darkness.”

Not only did this disgusting film win first place in the 1991 Sundance Festival, largely due to director Haynes’ ability to find, sustain and juggle three cinematic styles (in addition to the offensive, avant-garde subject and focus), but it was funded by taxpayer money from the National Endowment for the Arts. Of course, this extravagant, perverted use of taxpayer money is not new; neither, for that matter, is the aberrant behavior shown in the film.

The Village Voice called POISON “Hip, sexy, and thoroughly entertaining.” Variety said that it was “Conceptually bold, stylistically audacious.. taut and intense.” Vincent Canby of THE NEW YORK TIMES says that POISON “is just the kind of project that the [National] Endowment should support.” (Perhaps, the NEA should fund films in the perverse, sadomasochistic tradition of the Nazi filmmakers. In fact, the Village Voice subtly hints at this travesty in its review of POISON. Actually, POISON is the first step in this direction.)

These politically correct reviewers are pandering to rebelliousness. POISON is not an intelligent, cutting edge, provocative film. It is a tacky, New York East Village, camp, pop postcard which twists the truth and perverts art, entertainment and morality by portraying homosexuality as something innately biological. It does have some good acting, cinematography and music, as well as some humor and irony, but overall it is a befuddled, poorly written indulgence of anger, pain, humiliation, and sin, which leaves the viewer broken hearted.

As Stephen Farber noted in THE LOS ANGELES TIMES (quoted elsewhere in this issue), these politically correct reviewers have no clothes, and someone needs to call their bluff. Just like the reviewer who said he disliked THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, but wouldn’t say so for fear of siding with the “right-wing bigots” (as the Village Voice calls those who don’t like POISON); so, the reviewers who have touted POISON need to be exposed for the hypocrites they are in supporting such mediocre filmmaking.

Man’s fallen condition and rebellion against God can be readily witnessed in the first book of the Bible when the men of Sodom urge Lot to bring his male visitors outside so they “can have sex with them” (Genesis 19:5). Since a so-called arty, designed-to-shock film like POISON does nothing, but promote and encourage all manner of evil practices, avoid it like the plague.

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