– Summary –
Director : Gregory Levasseur
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Ashley Hinshaw, Denis O’Hare, James Buckley, Daniel Amerman, Amir K, Joseph Beddelem.
Approx Running Time : 89 Minutes
Synopsis: A group of archaeologists and documentary film-makers become trapped inside a giant buried pyramid in Egypt. And they’re not alone.
What we think : Oh woe is us. A found footage film, set beneath the surface of the Earth, dealing with ancient Egyptian tombs. The premise (like most found footage films) is quite enthralling, but equally similar to most other films of the genre, the end result of shaky-cam darkness and random screaming, sound-cutouts and digital white-noise is once again deafening on a creative level. The Pyramid would have made a really decent traditional narrative film, but as a found footage entry, relies too heavily on genre tropes to generate much beyond D-level interest.
The tag-line sounds like a porno I watched once.
Truth be told, I only watched this film because the poster looked so cool. Okay, here’s how stupid this film is: at one point, after a bunch of random characters have been running around an ancient underground pyramid being chased by some weird thing nobody can see, one of the women asks the main dude “are you sure this is the way”, like he’d know. Really? Are you sure this is the way? Is that what passes for plot development or something? The Pyramid is a film gorging on adequacy. Filmed predominantly “found footage” style, although sporting an occasional “traditional” camera shot here and there, The Pyramid has at least an interesting, if somewhat uncreative, plot device working in its favor. Mixing a bit of Aliens, a little bit of The Descent, and a whole lot of Stargate’s dusty, mummified creepiness (ha!), The Pyramid isn’t nearly as bad as the consensus ratings would have you believe, but it’s not far from the bottom of the barrel.
While filming a documentary in Egypt during the Arab Spring uprisings, an exciting discovery by a father/daughter archaeologist duo is abruptly halted by the funding organization’s desire for the team to leave. After one of their cameras is mysteriously hauled into the newly uncovered buried pyramid (yeah, a pyramid under the ground), the team
do the honorable thing and leave it the hell there while they leave decide to go after it. Naturally, entering a newly opened pyramid, without proper gear and minus any kind of back-up plan, coupled with a gradual realization that they aren’t alone down beneath the Earth, things take a turn for the worse when one of their team is pinned beneath a giant rock whilst they’re exploring.
The sole reason anyone would pick this up might involve True Blood fans looking to see Denis O’Hare (who appeared in a major role in that show) being entirely un-vampiric here, as the leader of the archaeology team who discover the pyramid. Otherwise, fans of gore, convincing scares, or perhaps even really stupid depictions of archaeology done wrong might have a fleeting interest. Everyone else can skip it. Even though its premise is enticing, and allows for a large spectrum of beneath-the-ground horror, the bland, decidedly inept violence and gruesomeness reduce what could have been totally scary into being merely adequate. And even calling it that is a stretch. The final act, in particular, which reveals the film’s “big bad” CG monster, is as hamfisted and inept an effect as that which turned The Mummy Returns from a charming crowd-pleaser into a thorough debacle.
I admit, while I was watching it, I had the distinct feeling this is the kind of film they should have turned into a Mummy reboot, although with better effects and a decent cast. Once inside the pyramid itself, the booby-traps, creature-features and trapdoor-histrionics make for often compelling viewing, but director Gregory Levasseur’s scattered direction and refusal to maintain a shot (it’s found footage, after all) limits the impact some of the key moments have. Some of it is cool, yes, but most of it feels like a high-school play acted by amateurs; I kinda wanted Brendan Fraser to show up and give everyone a lesson in how to play this kind of material. The screenplay, by Daniel Meersand and Nick Simon, isn’t terrible, it’s the execution of it that leaves a lot to be desired. On a B-movie pulp level, The Pyramid actually works well, but if you’re after a decent movie, probably look elsewhere.
The cast, led by O’Hare, are frankly awful. O’Hare comes out without devaluing himself (as he should), doing his best Indiana Jones impression, while the female leads all have that weird cinematic “feminist” vibe to them – they’re “strong” women, but when the proverbial hits the fan, they go to water just like the men. Ashley Hinshaw, who plays O’Hare’s on-screen daughter Nora, is the worst offender, offering a cloying and unrealistically insouciant prodigy daughter-type to rail against. James Buckley, as cameraman Fitzy, offers what passes for “humor” in this movie, commentating the viewers thoughts on how stupid this all is as if he’s a meta-character of some kind. Everyone else…. well, forgettable.
If nothing else, The Pyramid offers plenty of great design work and production value. From the sets (which I can only imagine are sound-stage stuff), to the thunderous sound mix and terrific Nima Fakhrara score (which offers plenty of dynamic range in itself), the film isn’t lacking for atmosphere and zest. Nope, the fact that the characters behave so stupidly, the plot revolves around so much exposition and contrivance, and the end-game seems to come from nowhere, makes The Pyramid just a spectacular failure in spite of such solid production values. In a weird serendipitous moment, I actually had flashbacks to similarly themed underground found-footage flick, As Above So Below; both films offer the same kind of “quest/escape” narrative, both films offer a similar “mythological deity” monster at the end, and both do an equally average job of delivering the story.
If you’re wanting a film to watch in the dark with the sound up, and a blanket clutched to your face, The Pyramid will do the job. Premise aside, the very setting of the film is terrific, if underused, and the scares are there if you’re undemanding about it. As an intelligent, well written spook-fest that tests your ability to stop jumping at the crash-zoom sound design, you’ll probably be able to either guess what’s gonna happen and when, or find it utterly preposterous. In any case, The Pyramid is an eminently skippable film that does little to commend itself, and riffs on Egyptology a little too much to make much sense. The Pyramid is a terribly acted piece of imaginative fiction that, in the right hands, could have been awesome, or at least better than this. It’s a shame it isn’t better.