The Young Poisoner's Handbook

Genre: Mystery and Thriller; Starring: Hugh O'Conor, Ruth Sheen; Director: Benjamin Ross; Author: Benjamin Ross; Runtime (in minutes): 99; MPAA Rating: Unrated

Truly amoral movies provide a special, kinky pleasure — they can put you in touch with your inner scoundrel — and the first feature film from writer-director Benjamin Ross has this ticklish deviousness; it’s like a Charles Addams cartoon directed by Hitchcock. Based on the early-1960s case of Graham Young, a teenager from the London suburbs who became obsessed with poisoning people, The Young Poisoner’s Handbook seduces us into viewing the most appalling acts with smirky, jaundiced detachment. After racking up several victims (including his own stepmother), Graham is apprehended, sent to a state mental hospital, and ”rehabilitated” by a staff psychiatrist — at which point he returns to society and promptly resumes poisoning. As Graham, Hugh O’Conor, with his big, dark, unblinking eyes (he looks like a handsome owl), almost convinces you that homicide is a reasonable extension of adolescent rebelliousness. He’s Holden Caulfield with a toxicology fetish.

Originally posted March 29 1996 — 12:00 AM EST

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