Monday, June 22, 2009

review: the pyx

A pyx, for you heathens out there, is a small case in which the Eucharist is carried by a Catholic Priest to those who can't physically attend communion, which is usually invalids or prisoners, but sometimes it's maudlin junkie prostitutes who are to become the brides of Satan. It's not correct to call The Pyx a horror movie, or even an occult thriller, as there's no real example of supernatural activity taking place, which is why I term movies like this Bummerism. Probably the most popular recent example of Bummerism was Se7en, and this film works roughly with the same rules: the city is a place of complete degradation and vice, Catholicism (particularly a kind of Gnostic Catholicism) is not only the true religion but its influence is everywhere even if in decline, all authority is either completely incompetent or in the service of the legions of evil and the only truly heroic gesture is self-destruction. Of course, anyone who actually grew up in this kind of environment understands that this isn't a denial of sleaze and titilation but a kind of framing device for making these things extra illicit, which works out well here as it means we get to see Karen Black's nipples. That alone is enough reason to watch this film, but there's more -- it's shot entirely in Montreal, so everyone has a thick French-Canadian accent (the dialogue keeps slipping between French and English), and apparently Montreal is basically Canada's Detroit because even considering the regular patina of grime the '70s adds to any film it's a rough looking harbor town.

Another key bummerism point is folk dirges sung by a woman with an acoustic guitar, and here they're sung by Karen Black herself, and what little action taking place here is stopped cold by long panning shots of boarded-up windows and her singing while she shoots up and stares blankly at sunlight through dirty windows and dreams about crucifixes. This kind of thing bugs people who expect a police procedural to have car chases and gunfights, but for fans of bummerism this is the good stuff, and I'd be happy to watch hours of this kinda nonaction. It's never entirely clear why Satan decides he needs to impregnate Karen with his demon seed, other than good taste, so while her madam tries to set her up with the devil she's running away and visiting her junkie friends and trying to score, not that escape is possible, obviously. The Devil, of course, is a wealthy playboy who lives on a yacht and arrogantly dismisses everyone.

Meanwhile, the police force (which consists entirely of Wojciehowiczes who have watched Dirty Harry too many times) stumbles around the city and harasses people for no good reason, threatening to "make trouble" for everyone, because everyone is guilty of Original Sin, and just to make it clear what the situation is they threaten one of the witnesses with clues left at the crime scene (the pyx and a crucifix) and they recoil in terror. The Black Mass, as usual, is the big payoff, and we get to see a descecrated church filled with creepy dudes in robes and masks (yet another classic bummerism move) and Karen all drugged up in a see-through nightgown and Gregorian chants played backwards and sped up/slowed down on the sountrack, and man do I ever love stuff like that. The wedding is not consumated, however, and an obviously blueballed Satan goes into a catatonic stupor until the head cop finds him. Normally I'd avoid telling you how it ends, but you already know how it ends, because you can't shoot Satan, you only kill his host organism, and this is all part of the Devil's masterful plan in which the stupid canuck cop was just a pawn. Take that, law enforcement!

My copy of this was on one of those twenty movies for five dollars collections, and while some of those films you'll obviously want on the best possible transfer (like Carnival of Souls, for instance) the missing frames and thin washed-out print works well for films like this, giving it a whole late-night cable quality. I don't imagine too many people reading this will dig a film like The Pyx, but you can probably already guess if it's your kinda film or not. I'm probably gonna watch it again this weekend! I followed this film up with A Name For Evil, starring Robert Culp, and I'm gonna have to write about that tomorrow as my brain is still kinda traumatized by it.

(screens coming soon)

No comments:

Post a Comment