The Pyramid

 pyramid-trl-2

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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The Inbetweeners 2

"The Inbetweeners Movie" Los Angeles Bus Press Tour

DIR/WRIDamon Beesley, Iain Morris  PRO: Spencer Millman • DOP:Ben Wheeler  ED: William Webb   DES: Richard Bullock MUS: David Arnold, Michael Price   CAST: Simon Bird, James Buckley, Blake Harrison, Joe Thomas

In the beginning there was the TV show and the show was good. Then came the first film and even amid the hype of its release, it seemed like a very hesitant step into features for the comedic quartet who were the affable heart of the TV version. Still the hype and popularity of the performers powered through to turn their Spanish sojourn into a palpable hit. Palpable but not really understandable considering anyone recommending the film off the back of the superior TV show was left feeling a little foolish.

Between the first and second film, the show’s creators Iain Morris and Damon Beesley have moved into the directors’ chairs. Thereby surely clinching their creative control over the entire project. Their directing instincts display promising flair in an early sequence evoking the humping hubris of Jay (James Buckley) with a slickness that serves like a puerile companion to the continuous beach shot from Atonement. Jay regales his UK-based buddies from the apparent safety of Oz with his customary tall tales of rampant sexual conquests. However, when Will, Simon and Neil show up to partake in the shenanigans, the reality is naturally rather pathetic.

Er, but it’s not the directing that really required most focus. For the second time, the truly adult cast of the show have been massively short-changed. In fact, the complete absence of the boys’ suburban existence mars this film exactly like its predecessor. Newcomers might assume the original show was a travel series based exclusively on the features. In the rush to get the students to Australia as quickly as possible, an entire first act is ditched. The infinite potential fun in the struggle or graft or chicanery needed to raise funds for a long-haul holiday is breezed past with a throwaway line. The increasingly awkward interactions with parents and authority figures were mined brilliantly in the show but have been restricted to mere cameos here.

To be honest though, this is a much better film. The targets are often soft – Simon Bird’s rant against posh gap year toffs posing as hippies – but far more jokes hit their actual target. Deficiencies on the writing sides are even bailed out by the superb physical skills of the cast at times. Surely no one knew before cameras rolled, how funny the straight legged desperate shuffle of Neil (Blake Harrison) towards a mirage would actually be. The directors have the conviction to hold the shot and it justifies the existence of the entire film in that moment. It’s not always so clever. The regular sightings of prosthetic testicles aren’t as inherently hilarious as some involved here believe. The makers also depict a poo in the pool moment that would make the Farrelly Brothers cringe. It’s either the zenith of the nadir of the franchise’s ambition. Though oddly, I’m in between about it.

 

James Phelan

16 (See IFCO for details)
97 mins

The Inbetweeners 2 is released on 8th August 2014

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