Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Pyramid

THE PYRAMID (Grégory Levasseur, 2014)

THE PYRAMID is not technically another entry in the belabored category of found footage horror, yet it mostly relies on that conceit in its unsuccessful attempt to drum up scares. The overwhelming majority of shots come from cameras the characters wear and carry. Presumably the immediacy of having cameras capture their perspectives is to increase the fright as if it’s a first person experience, but audiences are long past thinking that this sort of film really documents true events. At its worst THE PYRAMID’s creative tactic pulls one out of the action by calling attention to how affected its found footage is.

While revolution is being staged in the streets of Cairo in August 2013, 250 miles south of the city an American father-daughter archaeologist team discovers a new, three-sided pyramid buried in the desert. Princeton professor Dr. Miles Holden (Dennis O’Hare) and Nora (Ashley Hinshaw) are excited about what they might find inside. They’ve already been slowed down from exploring the pyramid because of the blast of toxic air that came from the first opening their workers made near the apex. Now the Egyptian government wants the excavation stopped because of the civil unrest in the country.

While stalling their departure they send a robot into the pyramid so they can at least get some video of the tomb’s interior. When robotics engineer Michael Zahir (Amir K) loses control of the expensive machine on loan from NASA, he, Holden, Nora, documentary host Sunni (Christa Nicola), and cameraman Fitzie (James Buckley) venture into the pyramid to rescue it and take a look for themselves.

THE PYRAMID belongs to the subset of horror films that primarily consist of people yelling at one another in dark places. Certainly the point is to set up the characters so they’re picked off one by one, but how about creating some atmosphere rather than spinning wheels with worthless arguments to accrue running time? Often what they say sounds like they’re reciting Wikipedia articles about pyramids or overexplaining what’s going on because the filmmakers put no trust that viewers will be able to follow the simple narrative.

Except for the shock of a clawed fist bursting through a chest or the film’s jolting cheat by pairing a loud, clanging stinger with someone putting a hand over another’s mouth, as if that’s a natural sound, THE PYRAMID is never particularly scary. When director Grégory Levasseur drops his potential victims into a couple tight spots similar to those in the Indiana Jones films, it feels like there’s an attempt to use the constricted space to his advantage, but those moments are far too few. The dark setting merely serves the purpose of covering up sketchy computer-generated special effects. The predator revealed to be inside the pyramid provides a novel twist, as far as that goes. However loosely THE PYRAMID tries to connect its events with the real violence in Tahrir Square is just tasteless.

Grade: D-

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