Video allows viewers access to films they might otherwise have been potentially embarrassed by in theaters. A case in point is Todd Haynes’ Poison, a low-budget film with graphic sexual — specifically homosexual — content that came under fire last year for being supported by the National Endowment for the Arts (the endowment contributed $25,000 toward postproduction). Now viewers at home can make up their own minds by watching the unexpurgated NC-17 edition, an R version (with a toned-down prison-rape scene and minus a scene of male frontal nudity), and an unrated one (missing merely the frontal nudity).

Sadly, the three clumsily interweaving stories — the disappearance of a 7-year-old boy who has murdered his father, a scientist’s failed experiment that leaves him with an AIDS-like disease, and a thwarted love story set in reform school and prison — lack real energy. The shape, rhythm, and visual style of Haynes’ work belong to parody, which wears very thin after 85 minutes. C-