The Pyramid

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DIR: Grégory Levasseur  WRI: Daniel Meersand, Nick Simon  PRO: Alexandre Aja, Mark Canton, Chady Eli Mattar, Scott C. Silver  ED: Scott C. Silver  MUSIC: Nima Fakhrara  CAST: Denis O’Hare, Ashley Hinshaw, Christa Nicola, James Buckley

Directed by Grégory Levasseur, a longtime script-writing accomplice of French splatter merchant Alexandre Aja, The Pyramid is a drearily uninspired trudge through modern horror’s least interesting tropes, lent precious little character by its Egyptian setting. Like this summer’s similarly rote As Above, So Below – which posited the Parisian catacombs as a gateway to hell – The Pyramid largely unfolds in an underlit subterranean labyrinth, although establishing shots of the real pyramids can’t help but lend the opening scenes a second-hand grandeur.

Denis O’Hare chews the scenery as Dr. Holden, an American archaeologist who has discovered a mysterious three-sided pyramid with the aid of his daughter (Ashley Hinshaw). Accompanied by the now obligatory documentary crew (Christa Nicola and The Inbetweeners’ James Buckley), the Holdens descend into the pyramid and, to nobody’s surprise but their own, find themselves in ill-defined mortal peril.

O’Hare appears to be enjoying himself, and Nicola gives her cardboard character her all, but the rest of the cast are as lost as their characters. It’s never clear whether Buckley’s shrill turn is intended as comic relief, and Hinshaw is perfectly dreadful as the heroine – although charitable viewers may choose to interpret her stilted line readings as a form of protest against a script that introduces one of its establishing devices (a mobile transmitting camera) through an extended close-up of her bosom.

That transmitting camera is the source of some of the footage, while cameras held by characters also contribute to the mise-en-scene. However, this “found footage” is awkwardly spliced with conventional omniscient perspective, much of it confusingly shot on near-identical stock. “Found footage” is a pretty tired conceit in contemporary horror cinema, but at least it’s part of a venerable tradition, stretching back to the use of forged documentation in 18th– and 19th-century Gothic novels. The Pyramid repeatedly picks the device up and puts it back down again, as if Levasseur isn’t quite sure how to make it work from scene-to-scene, and eventually can’t be bothered. The effect is distancing – there’s really no excuse for such a linear film to feel so disorganised.

The inconsistency of perspective is matched by an uneven tone, the film’s vague gestures toward realism undercut by digitally rendered creatures so substandard one keeps expecting a plot twist in which the pyramid is revealed to be a portal into a mid-1990s video game. When the principal beastie makes his belated appearance, viewers may find themselves counting his pixels to stay awake. In addition, its joylessly slapdash monsters, The Pyramid dabbles in a number of other recent horror clichés – including fiendish traps (Saw, The Collector, Captivity, etc.), puss-oozing contagion (Cabin Fever, The Bay, Carriers), and a hint of the extraterrestrial (take your pick) – without integrating them into a coherent whole.

For those concerned with such matters, The Pyramid is also lamentably short on gore. The film’s two moments of outright body horror are roundly uninspired – and both hinge on in-your-face protuberances that suggest the film may once have been intended for 3D post-conversion (the fact that it is in 2D robs it of the opportunity for still more visual and conceptual confusion). This timidity with the entrails is bound to disappoint the intended audience for a film that is being sold on Alexandre Aja’s nebulous involvement as one of ten credited producers. Even Aja’s own fatuous teen-romance-horror thingamabob Horns, released in October, offered more inventive gross-out moments than this dusty relic.

David Turpin

16 (See IFCO for details)

88 minutes

The Pyramid is released 5th December 2014

 

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