This review is also up at Channel 24
What it's about
With a documentary crew following their every move, a team of archaeologists enter a newly unearthed pyramid in Egypt, only to come face to face with some very powerful ancient forces.
What we thought
Another month, another sub-par horror movie, but even by the lackluster standards of modern day horror films, The Pyramid is still notably terrible. It's especially maddening though, because the rich wellsprings of ancient Egyptian mythology it so ineffectually tries to mine offers so much in the way of otherworldly weirdness.
Most of the film's most heated critics – and, to be sure, there are a lot of them – point towards the film's utter lack of originality as its biggest flaw, but however much it may share rather obvious similarities with everything from Neil Marshall's The Descent to every found-footage horror movie ever made, its lack of new ideas is by the far the least of The Pyramid's many, many crimes.
It is, most fatally, without any decent scares whatsoever. In fact, forget decent scares, it doesn't even offer any indecent scares either. There are one or two moments when you will probably jump out of your seat, to be fair, but it's less because of any sense of abject terror as much as it's the cinematic equivalent of someone creeping up behind you and shouting “BANG!”. Though even there I'm probably giving it too much credit. The Pyramid doesn't “creep” in any way, shape or form: it pretty much just walks right up to you and screams in your face for a good hour and a half.
The film has a soundtrack that is turned all the way up to eleven right from the beginning. Whether it is roaring “monsters” (the baddies aren't exactly monsters but they're portrayed that way), collapsing ceilings or seriously unlikeable characters yelling at one another constantly, every inch of the film is an assault on the eardrums. Sound is a quintessential part of the horror experience, of course, but someone obviously forgot to explain terms like “subtlety” or “building of tension” to whoever sleep-walked through the film's obnoxiously lazy sound design.
Though, again to be fair, I understand why so much attention was paid to making the film as loud as possible. Considering that it's all but impossible to actually see what the hell is going on for a good half of the film, they obviously needed to find some way to keep their audience awake. The inconsistent and utterly irrelevant constant switching between hand-held “found footage” camera work and more traditional cinematography only worsens what is already a poorly lit, incoherent and incomprehensibly shot film. I get that the film's characters spend most of the running time in a darkened pyramid but the incalculable amount of darkly lit horror and thriller films out there have shown that it is possible to create tension, scares and comprehensible storytelling in such settings – new director Gregory Levasseur clearly just isn't up to the challenge; certainly not yet.
Beyond its terrible failings as a horror film, it simply is an incredibly inept piece of filmmaking. The acting is universally terrible (more veteran actors and newcomers alike seem hopelessly lost throughout), the script is dire beyond words and it's very simply shoddily put together. Frankly,I have no earthly idea how something this amateurish has landed up in cinemas when it would sit far more comfortably with similarly inept schlock like Piranhaconda or Sharknado on the Syfy Channel (or whatever the equivalent is here in in SA).