The Pyramid, a new archaeology-themed horror movie being dumped into theaters like a bad date, concerns a group of idiots who stomp into an ancient tomb and uncover long-buried mythological evils. In the same spirit, director Grégory Levasseur has shot the movie using found footage, a future relic of the movie industry. An onscreen prologue states that what follows resulted from a 2013 expedition into a newly discovered pyramid in the Egyptian desert. Given the film’s ludicrous final scenes, it’s not clear how the cameras were reclaimed. But judging from how dull their contents are, they should have stayed buried in the sand like the E.T. videogame.
A father-daughter archaeologist team uncovers a big find on their Egypt excavation site, just as their funding is pulled due to the country’s civil unrest (a topical bit the film acknowledges without context). The scientists (Denis O’Hare and Ashley Hinshaw) send a rover into the catacombs, which promptly vanishes; naturally, they have no choice but to run after it headfirst, accompanied by a documentary film crew (Christa Nicola and James Buckley) and the rover’s horny technician (Amir K). The pyramid, as the newswoman breathlessly explains, has three top sides instead of four. A discussion of the differences between tetrahedrons and true pyramids would have been more fascinating than the rest of the film.
It’s been a decade-plus since the Mummy remake series peaked, so maybe the time was right to excavate a new round of Egyptian-themed screams. Too bad The Pyramid has none. The team spends a lot of time pacing through cheap-looking dark corridors and getting lost while feral cats menace them. Sometimes the scientists offer exposition about Egyptian gods, which prompts gems of dialogue like, “Stop being an archaeologist for a minute here and start being a human being!”
Naturally everyone meets their fate one by one, but through methods too pedestrian to even be gruesome (impaled on spikes, dragged offscreen while screaming). Several characters get infected by a mysterious toxin that makes their skin clammy and eyes bloodshot, but they each die some other way before the infection does anything weird. Why show it, then? Do the horror gods require some minimum of zombie stuff in their sacrifices now?
Were The Pyramid not produced by shlock-horror king Alexandre Aja, it’s hard to imagine it seeing a wide release in a crowded December. But thank Aja for one thing: the chance to watch Levasseur slowly entomb his own found footage gimmick. Two of the characters in The Pyramid have cameras, but the movie frequently cuts to angles that neither of them could be shooting from. Even when Levasseur does stick to their vantage, he employs a scary soundtrack and a shot-reverse-shot editing style indistinguishable from traditional filmmaking. But the found footage still comes in handy, namely when the filmmakers need to justify not showing an expensive effect (e.g. when the ground falls out from under the protagonists, the camera goes static and turns back on once they’ve landed). By the end of The Pyramid, found footage becomes just another possession to be buried alongside long-dead Pharaohs for use in the next life. Here’s hoping the next life has no return policy.