Producer: Alexandre Aja, Mark Canton, Scott C. Silver and Chady Eli Mattar
Director: Gregory Levasseur
Writer: Nick Simon and Daniel Meersand
Stars: Ashley Hinshaw, Denis O’Hare, James Buckley, Christa Nicola, Amir K, Faycal Attougui and Philip Shelley
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Dumb beyond belief and boring beyond endurance, “The Pyramid” is total schlock, from its uninspired title to its stock characterizations and insipid dialogue. A companion piece to the equally awful “As Above, So Below” from earlier this year, it definitely proves that any moviegoer looking for some genuine scares ought not to venture to the subterranean depths where these movies are set.
This time, however, the underground locale isn’t the Parisian catacombs but the interior of a unique three-sided pyramid that a father-daughter pair of American archaeologists, Miles and Nora Holden (Denis O’Hare and Ashley Hinshaw), have discovered buried in the Egyptian desert. The opening of the structure has resulted in a spurt of toxic air, but they’re about to investigate the inner sanctum anyway, preceded by a NASA rover controlled by techie Michael (Amir K), and accompanied by Sunni (Christa Nicola), a reporter who’s covering the expedition along with her cameraman Fitzie (James Buckley). Their plans are derailed, however, by street violence in Cairo (the year is given as 2013—the use of the country’s political turmoil as a catalyst for the plot is pretty tasteless), which causes them to be ordered to evacuate the dig. But they persuade a soldier who’s their handler to give them a couple of hours to send the rover inside for a quick peek; and when it gets disconnected, they decide to make a trip to retrieve it.
That turns out to be a mistake, of course, because almost immediately they not only get lost amid the winding halls but come under assault from a pack of mutant cats. Floors and ceilings start to collapse on them too, and they’re confronted by hieroglyphics that bode ill. From that point the disasters that pick them off one by one as they wander around aimlessly are almost ludicrously predictable, and even the sudden clatter of music and sound effects as the deaths occur won’t raise anyone’s pulse rate. But it’s the revelation of the pyramid’s ultimate secret—which won’t be specified here, out of reverence for the practice of avoiding spoilers—that takes the movie out of the realm of mere tedium into the stratosphere of complete absurdity, especially since the special effects are so crummy that Ray Harryhausen would have rejected them as inadequate even in the stop-motion days of fifty years ago.
The acting is just as terrible as the CGI, with Hinshaw standing out on the negative side of the ledger as the obligatorily nubile Nora, as unlikely a brilliant scientist as Perdita Weeks was in “As Above,” (her forte, we’re told, is the innovative use of satellite technology in archaeological work) and an even worse actress. Of the others O’Hare is probably the best known, but this job won’t raise the quality of his resume. The on-and-off found-footage device favored by writers Nick Simon and Daniel Meersand and first-time director Gregory Levasseur (abandoned whenever it’s convenient) is yet another nail in the picture’s coffin, though it has to be said that overall Laurent Tangy’s cinematography is a step above the norm for this sort of fare, and in the opening outdoor scenes is actually quite nice.
There’s a long history of bad Egyptian-based horror in cinema, of course, with little more of it than Karloff’s original “Mummy” worth spending your time on. This pathetic potboiler is one of the worst examples of the type.