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The Pyx: An Eerie Postcard From The Past

Published July 19, 2013 by vfdpixie

 

the pyx

The Pyx (1973, 1 hr 48 mins)

After a brief and tipsy jaunt in Montreal, I thought it only fitting that I write about a 1973 classic that I stumble upon at Suspect Video.  Filmed in Montreal, and based on a novel by John Buell, The Pyx is a trippy, time jumping story that showcases a very young Christopher Plummer and the striking Karen Black in some lesser known roles.

Elizabeth Lucy (Karen Black) falls to her death from the penthouse of a posh apartment complex, adorned with an inverted crucifix and a pyx (a vessel used to transport the Catholic Host outside the church).  Detective Jim Henderson (Christopher Plummer) is assigned to the case; a sarcastic, hard-nosed but thoughtful cop who’s been around the block.  His partner, Detective Pierre Paquette (Donald Pilon) realizes that she was a prostitute, and piece by piece, Henderson uncovers a mysterious plot where no one is as they seem, and fear and the occult fuels everyone’s motives.

The story is revealed through two parallel timelines:  Henderson’s present investigation, and events in the past that lead up to Elizabeth’s death.  In my opinion, it is actually two films; a complex weaving of both characters’ race against time.  I found the film to be good, but I would have liked to have seen Henderson’s character expanded just a touch more.  We get to see Karen Black’s great performance of Elizabeth as a world-weary addict/sacrificial lamb (literally), but just a glimpse of Christopher Plummer’s brilliance as the tough cop with a haunting secret.  And when he spoke French in that pseudo-French/British accent, I fell in love with him all over again!  A nod also goes to Jean-Louis Roux, who played Elizabeth’s mysterious client Keerson.  He had very little screen time, but was effectively creepy!

I loved the religious aspect of the film.  It is so fitting since, as I learned on my double-decker bus tour, Montreal has churches all over the place.  Like everywhere.  Made my weird phobia of churches and religious statues more evident, by the way.  Hence the tipsiness, but I digress. The director, Harvey Hart, had his pick of gothic looking churches to convey Elizabeth’s personal conflict with her faith and profession.  And the anticipation of finding the villain, supernatural or otherwise, created a decent amount of suspense.  Just to throw in a quick note, another film that comes to mind is the more recent Kill List (2011).  Check it out for a similar feel. I think it’s an homage to the horror films of the 1970’s.

As a good ’70’s supernatural thriller, The Pyx fits the bill.  Weird, and intricate, it’s definitely worth a watch to see Montreal in the old days, the beautiful Karen Black and her folk singing skills, and a debonair Christopher Plummer rocking some sweet ’70’s suits.

Most Memorable Line:  When Henderson investigates the penthouse Elizabeth fell from, he is challenged by the superintendent. “Are you a superintendent or a lawyer?”, he asks.  The super replies, “I’m the superintendent of this building.”  Henderson then quips, “Then be a good superintendent and stay right there, and shut up.”  Said with such a condescending tone.  Taking notes for the next time I’m challenged…

Favourite Scene:  Instead of a chalk outline, Elizabeth’s body is marked by a string, which is then pulled up and used as a skipping rope by the neighbourhood kids as the camera pans upwards. All to the soundtrack of one of the eerie folk songs written and sung by Karen Black herself for the film.  Talk about ’70’s trippyness!!

Karen Black is currently battling cancer.  If you are interested in her progress, there is a crowd funding site that gives official updates on her condition.  Here is the link. Along with all of her fans, I truly wish her all the best.

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Zombie Globetrotting

Published July 1, 2013 by vfdpixie

wwz

World War Z (2013 1 hr, 56 mins)

This pixie is breathing a sigh of relief.  If you read my previous post, you will know that I don’t like my zombies messed with.  No tip-toeing through the tulips with zombies please.  Just keep ’em blood-thirsty, unthinking, and mean.  Fast or slow-moving, doesn’t matter, but stick to the program.  I am happy to report that World War Z has renewed my zombie fervour (even if technically speaking, these zombies are more of the “infected” types rather than zombies).

I’ve heard from a few people who reported World War Z is not what they expected.  They read the book, and felt the film adaptation wasn’t exactly what they envisioned.  I’m surprised I haven’t read this wildly popular book by Max Brooks, since I love a good zombie/survivalist story.  From what I’ve heard, it’s an oral history of the world after an outbreak of a zombie-making virus.  After seeing the film, I will definitely read it, because even though the film is great on its own, I want to get familiar with the source.

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is a retired UN investigator who gets thrown back into action after a virus outbreak turns its victims into fast-moving, biologically driven biters.  Lane witnesses this first hand during one of the best chaos scenes as he sees a man “turn” in 12 seconds after being bitten, making this outbreak almost impossible to contain.  He is forced to leave his family at a U.S. navy vessel and help a young Dr. Andrew Fassbach (Elyes Gabel) navigate the world as they trace the origins of the virus in the hopes of finding a cure.  Unfortunately, the doctor panics during a zombie attack in a decimated South Korean army base, and inadvertently shoots himself.  Lane is now the only hope in finding a cure for the virus that has rapidly reached a world-wide pandemic.

I really enjoyed World War Z.  It was filled with tons of suspense and action, and although Brad Pitt is not one of my favourite actors, he gave a pretty solid, quietly bad-ass performance. If you can get past the similarities to 28 Days Later, and also the feeling that the film at some points behaved like a video game, I think it’s a great summer horror movie.  I liked the tone and scope of the film, as Lane moved from Philadelphia to South Korea, then on to Jerusalem and Wales.  The pacing was great as well.  Never a dull moment here, and the tension grew from the first frame as Lane and his family see the horror unfold during a seemingly normal traffic jam to the end as he races against time for the cure.

A huge kudos goes to the actors who played the zombies.  I wouldn’t call them full-blown zombies, as they were really fast and reminded me of the infected from 28 Days Later.  (I’m sure there is a zombie chart out there that classifies zombie differences such as speed, rate of decay, etc.)  They played their roles with such blood-thirsty vigor, that most people in the theatre I was in cringed or giggled nervously.  Yes people, I crawled out of my bunker and went to a movie in the theatre.  In public.  It was difficult, but the crowd exhibited proper movie etiquette and seemed to enjoy the movie as much as I did.  Anyway, check out this cool article I found from the L.A. Times about a couple of key zombies from the film.  The F/X makeup was brilliant and gruesome, and of course a great actor uses this as a tool to immerse themselves into their role, down to the chilling teeth clicking as the virus made them want to chomp on autopilot.

There were some familiar faces here too.  James Badge Dale was gritty and dour as Captain Speke, who helps Lane out of South Korea.  I will always remember him from the short-lived but much-loved AMC series Rubicon (which they should have never cancelled).  Mireille Enos played Lane’s wife Karin and you can see her in another AMC show The Killing. David Morse has a great cameo as crazed ex-CIA agent, and Matthew Fox (of Lost fame) made a brief appearance as a parajumper on the navy vessel.  I suspect his role was supposed to be bigger, but this production was apparently, um, plagued with problems like rewrites, going over budget and several cast changes.  Despite these issues, I think the film was entertaining and worth emerging from your bunker, under your bridge, or out of your cardboard box to see it.

Most Memorable Line:  The ill-fated young Dr. Fassbach proclaims that “Mother Nature is a serial killer.”  He goes on to describe her wily ways and wanting to get caught at the same time.  Interesting concept, and something to make us think as global resources dwindle.

Favourite Scene:  At the W.H.O research facility.  This is what reminded me of a video game as Lane has to navigate a maze of zombies to get to precious and dangerous ingredients for a possible cure.  I loved the contrast between the stark, sterile environment of the labs sullied by infected, snarling zombies.  Definitely a nail-biter!

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