The Hooker Cult Murders

AKA The Pyx

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Detective Henderson and his partner are tasked with investigating the suspicious death of a young woman seen falling from a high-rise, their only clues to her identity being an upside-down crucifix and a small metal box. During the course of their investigation they find out that the woman is Elizabeth Lucy, a drug-addicted prostitute. In the course of finding out what happened to her, they find themselves wading through a world of prostitution, drugs and the occult.

You know, the fun stuff.

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Despite what the title may suggest, The Hooker Cult Murders does not actually involve a cult of murderous hookers. I know, I was disappointed too. It is instead a crime drama involving an evil satanic cult, and a mysterious cult leader who may or may not be possessed by the devil, who was thrown in at the end for good measure. For the most part, it’s a pretty by-the-book crime piece, until you get to the end and devil worshipers come out to play. Though you do get the feeling something seriously creepy is going on about halfway through, when the detective shows up to question some witnesses and finds everyone dead and this pegged to the door:

Pyx3The cat too?! You monsters!

The entire film takes place over a 48 hour period and is split into two separate 24-hour narratives that the movie shifts between as the story progresses. The first is the detective’s story as he spends the second day discovering how Elizabeth died. The other is Elizabeth’s story in the 24-hours leading up to her death. There are no telltale scene shifts or title cards to differentiate the two timelines, which may throw a few for a loop at first, but the shifts are easy enough to pick up on. It is a rare case of a director showing enough faith in is audience that they can follow the plot without anyone having to over explain everything.

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For the most part, the movie is pretty bland. Other than slightly surreal atmosphere, there’s really nothing here that stands out from any other crime/horror/thrillers. With perhaps the exception of the cat knifed to a door, all the deaths are pretty mundane, there are no shocking crime twists (at least none that you won’t see coming) and it’s not particularly suspenseful. There isn’t even that much blood in it. There is, however, quite a bit of nudity. But likely not enough to get anybody really excited, just a couple brief flashes and gratuities nip shots. You know, just enough to up the films rating to an R.

Pyx5Actually, considering the picture quality it’s probably perfectly safe, I’m just an evil tease.

The only real stand-out here is Karen Black’s performance as Elizabeth. Christopher Plummer also pulls in a very solid performance, but it’s Black that really carries the film, as the movie isn’t so much the detective’s story, but Elizabeth’s. Black’s work here could be considered subdued when compared to some of her other performances, but it’s no less excellent. Her character’s backstory is pretty cliche (hooker with a tragic history, but a heart of gold? Who’d a thunk it?), but that doesn’t keep her from covering the entire spectrum of emotion from vulnerable to courageous, wonderfully. With such a mundane plot, she’s really the greatest reason you have to keep watching.

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I’d normally talk about picture and sound quality, but the only version I had to work with was the one off of Amazon Prime, and if you can’t tell by those screenshots up there then let me affirm that the picture quality here was poor. Like dirt poor. Like crappy VHS got run over by a tractor trailer on the day the video was supposed to be transferred and they couldn’t find another copy, poor. And the sound isn’t much better. It’s garbled, there are VHS artifacts and sometimes the sound just drops out completely for no discernible reason. But I suspect that’s Amazon’s fault, not the movie (at least I hope so), so I give the film no blame for that. I will, however, blame the film for a couple instances of choppy editing and some very odd chanting that sounds like the Chipmunks got ahold of some very old versions of Gregorian chants. Believe it or not, that last bit actually works towards the end of the movie, but when it’s in other non-satanic scenes it just sounds weird.

On a separate note, Karen Black also features significantly on the soundtrack, contributing her vocals to several songs sung throughout the film. They’re all folksy, appropriately melancholic little ballads that fit in beautifully here, but I’ll also admit that they’re likely very dated by today’s popular standards. Still, it’s very haunting to realize that this woman is singing these hauntingly mournful tunes as her character goes about her day towards her inevitable end.

You can hear a couple of them here and here.

Although it didn’t fully live up to my expectations (where is my hooker cult!), I still found The Hooker Cult Murders entertaining. The plot is pretty simple, and at close to two hours it feels a bit too long, but it’s still a solidly put together cult crime thriller. There’s a bit of nudity and a bit of blood, but most of the violence happens just off camera. The performances are great and I’m sure the picture and sound are great too…. if I could find a better copy to confirm it instead of the jumbled mess I had to watch. If you like occult films or you like your crime drama with a side of devil worship, than The Hooker Cult Murders might be an under-the-radar film worth looking into. Just try to find it on something other than Prime.

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