Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 7, 2015)
With 2014’s The Pyramid, we get a horror film set in Egypt. A text intro tells us that in 2013, American archaeologists located a previously undiscovered pyramid in the desert. Chaos ensues among the citizenry, but efforts proceed to excavate the site.
We follow this work from the perspective of a documentary crew. Led by producer Sunni (Christa Nicola), we meet the archaeological team of Dr. Miles Holden (Denis O’Hare) and his daughter Nora (Ashley Hinshaw). As they delve deeper into the pyramid, they discover mysterious secrets – and hidden terror.
When will the “found footage” genre die? When those movies cease to make a profit, I guess, and given how little most of these efforts cost, I suspect that day won’t arrive any time soon. For instance, even though 2014’s Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones took in a weak $32 million, because it only cost $5 million to make, it earned money.
I couldn’t locate a budget for Pyramid, but since it grossed only $14 million worldwide, I suspect it earned a tiny profit at best. While I’m sure it didn’t cost much to shoot, $14 million across the globe – and a pathetic $2.8 million US – doesn’t inspire confidence.
Nor should it, as Pyramid offers a weak entry in both the horror and “found footage” fields. It comes with all the flaws one associates with both genres. In terms of “found footage” drawbacks, Pyramid feels like an excuse to avoid good cinematography. The documentary aspect lacks a need to exist and seems cheap/easy.
This turns the experience into a clumsy piece of filmmaking. Pyramid uses the “found footage” conceit when its chooses but avoids the so-called “realism” far too often. We see shots that don’t make sense for the crew to have filmed – and from a variety of angles, too!
We also find elements that the documentarians couldn’t have recorded. For instance, when the characters move a stone to open a portal, we watch this from the other side, a place no cameraman could be.
Examples of these “found footage violations” abound and make Pyramid a mess. Why bother with the first-person motif if you plan to ignore the “rules” so often? Pyramid wants to mix “found footage” shots with traditional techniques and it doesn’t work. The hybrid nature simply creates a muddled mess.
Pyramid also suffers from other questionable filmmaking choices. The movie comes with a score, and that’s a bad decision. Again, if one wants this to feel like material shot on the fly, it shouldn’t come with movie post-production elements such as music. The filmmakers don’t seem to feel confident enough to follow the “found footage” style in the appropriate manner, so we get a strange, off-putting melange.
Perhaps if Pyramid came with a compelling story, interesting characters or decent horror, I might forgive the poor filmmaking on display. Alas, the movie does little more than package dull personalities with a bunch of cheap “scares” and various clichés. It comes across as a lazy compilation of scenes from other flicks and never threatens to create its own personality.
Maybe a decent movie exists beneath the surface, but The Pyramid never threatens to turn into anything interesting. A cheap, amateurish effort with no excitement or tension on display, the film creates a dull, forgettable experience.