Review By Lauren Taylor: The alternate title for Harvey Hart’s 1973 film The Pyx is The Hooker Cult Murders. I think it has a nice ring to it, and is actually more entertaining than the film itself.
Elizabeth Lucy (Karen Black) is a heroin-addicted prostitute that happens to have just plummeted to her death. In her hand is a pyx – a small round-lidded box that is used to transport communion wafers to the sick and those who cannot attend church. Around Elizabeth’s neck is an inverted cross. Anyone who reads the description on the DVD case will know that a Satanic cult could be behind her murder. Henderson (Christopher Plummer, the pride of Canada) investigates Elizabeth’s death throughout the film as we go back and forth through time to discover who wants Elizabeth, and her ample mane, dead.
The film strives to reach a level of importance – similar to, say, The Omen – but can only get a third of the way there. The main issue is that it begins at the end. If it were to then go back to the beginning and lead up to this climactic end – it would be one thing. However, with abrupt edits and somewhat confusing nature we are sent back and forth between Elizabeth’s life and Henderson’s investigation. This could be an effective way of storytelling and is somewhat innovative for its time but there is too slow of a pace to make it fully work. The solemn atmosphere of watching Elizabeth struggle with her addiction and life as a prostitute is depressing enough. Add in the second narrative of Plummer’s detective dealing with the death of his wife and the film is dominating with such a sad blanket of emotion that it’s hard to even focus on the real story of a Satanic cult that wants to use Elizabeth for a nice little black mass.
The Pyx isn’t necessarily a bad film. Karen Black’s performance is great and the score is charming – the music in the cult ritual scenes alone was worth the watch. And the highlight of the film for any Karen Black fan may be the scene where she is told to strip, then interrogated until she admits she believes in God – all whilst a sad violin plays.
Unfortunately, though it is a simplistic tale of Satanic cults being behind a series of murders – there are just too many distractions that water down our base plot, and the real story of The Pyx is lost.