There’s a place for everything, or so they say. Even Fox News serves a useful purpose: it keeps old stupid white people angry and paranoid so their hearts don’t just stop from the boredom of one more day locked up inside a slow cooker of resentment. The trick, of course, is finding the right time and the right place. Wearing that FREE MOUSTACHE RIDES T-shirt is great when you’re hanging out with your friends discussing exactly how long you should microwave porridge to make it feel exactly like a human vagina, but it’s not as appropriate at your grandmother’s funeral (at the very least, include a bow tie).
Likewise, SyFy movies fill a niche: they are stupid horror and science fiction movies with crappy CGI and absurd premises that, nevertheless, are perfect under the right circumstances, like when you want to set a baseline for your children on what Bad But Entertaining means, or when you have a few beers to kill and you’re not in the mood to wade through a 3 hour documentary on the Costa Rican irrigation network. The SyFy people know what they produce, and aren’t stupid enough to think it would be a contender for the Palm d’Or, unless they’ve changed the rules to include movies with ex-TV stars and clunky titles like CHUPACABRA VS THE ALAMO.
What does this have to do with THE PYRAMID? Let’s venture inside and find out, shall we kids?
The movie opens with some expositional text about the uprisings in Cairo in 2013, and how this affects an archaeological dig outside the city… and the footage which follows is all that survived that fateful expedition! Firstly, it sounds like another Found Footage Flick, which elicits the same enthusiasm in me as does another trip to the backyard to clean up my dog’s crap. Secondly, I know that movie executives aren’t known for their tact, but isn’t staging a horror movie around real-life tragedies a little, you know, tasteless? And thirdly, is it even still a thing to have Western archaeologists digging around foreign sites and presumably carting away whatever they find to museums in America and Britain? There’s a reason that Indiana Jones and the MUMMY movies are set in the past, when Johnny Foreigner knew his place and cigars and brandy were mandatory from the age of nine.
Anyway, we get the obligatory exposition footage of archaeologists Nora Holden (Ashley Hinshaw, CHRONICLE) and her father Miles Holden (Denis O’Hare, from TV’s TRUE BLOOD and AMERICAN HORROR STORY), as they continue the excavation of a newly-discovered pyramid. Well, technically, it’s not a pyramid, as pyramids have four sides, and this one has three, which actually makes it a tetrahedron, which is literally the only thing I remember from high school geometry class 34 years ago (I was too busy trying not to go obtuse every time I stared too long at my hot teacher).
Father and Daughter are seen arguing over their respective methods of conducting Movie Archaeology, with Miles preferring brushes and magnifying glasses, while Nora chooses to use satellite technology and wear Lara Croft hand-me-downs. the latter I approve of, given the number of rear-end shots we’ll get of Nora through the rest of the movie.
Of course, there’s talk of curses and the Apocalypse and even aliens (because why not?), and the local dogs are baying as more of the structure is uncovered, and naturally the underpaid natives are dying horribly from things but hell they’re only sweaty illiterate extras so who cares? But then the Egyptian government orders the site shut down because of the growing unrest, and the Western archaeologists act all pissed like they’re being thrown out of Starbucks before they’ve finished their soya lattes.
But Nora convinces Miles to let their tech expert Zahir (Amir K, ARGO) pilot their NASA-borrowed robot probe into the Pyramid to get some footage before they leave. So of course something happens to the $3 million device, and they have to go in and retrieve it. But they won’t be in there long, promise, hand on heart. Five minutes, tops.
So what do they find? Pretty much everything you expect, and less: the probe smashed to pieces, hieroglyphics warning about the terrible dangers within, false scares, traps, the obligatory green night vision footage, undefined blood and guts scenes, hairless feral cats, and a crappy CGI of the jackal-headed underworld god Anubis, who cut out the hearts of the newly-deceased and weighed them to determine whether or not they were worthy of passing into the afterlife (so, like a typical Customs officer, but less of a douchebag).
Grégory Levasseur started out as a scriptwriter for movies such as HIGH TENSION, MIRRORS, THE HILLS HAVE EYES and MANIAC remakes, and now has branched out with this, his directorial debut. And judging from the result, he couldn’t decide on what he wanted to make. It starts out presented in found footage format, complete with lots of poorly-lit scenes but then will cut to more conventional third-person cinematic shots, generating a sloppy inconsistency.
Likewise, the storyline has bits in it that, if cooked properly, would have worked far better in the plot (the uprisings, for instance, are there merely as an excuse to make the scientific team do something drastic like rush into the unexplored interior of the titular structure), and the mythology is given just enough of a nod to allow for a crappy CGI god to knock about like Gollum on steroids.
But here’s where I return to the start of my review: Levasseur has created what is basically a SyFy movie, complete with TV actors (who admittedly all acquit themselves well with what they‘ve been given to work with), absurd premises and low-budget CGI monsters, but he’s treating it like it’s MARTYRS or THE OMEN. No movie where an impaled woman lies there while hairless CGI cats nip at her and she barely reacts (and the blood and wounds disappear in the following scene) should take itself too seriously. SyFy would have just rolled with it and had some fun, maybe with stunt casting like Danny Bonaduce or Samantha Fox, and called it MUMMY CATS, and had the felines wrapped up in bandages trying to lick themselves. You’d watch it, admit it.
Either that, or embrace the movie tropes fully, and have some actual mummies in it. The MUMMY movies knew to do that, even the crappy third one set in China because, you know, China has lots of money.
THE PYRAMID is available in various formats, and the trailer is below.
Director: Grégory Levasseur
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars
Gore: 3 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy. The original Mummy’s Boy.