The age-old wonders of the world have long cursed explorers who've dared to unlock their mysteries. But a team of archaeologists gets more than they bargained for when they discover a lost pyramid unlike any other in the Egyptian desert. As they begin to uncover its horrifying secrets, they realize they're being relentlessly hunted by an ancient evil more nightmarish than anything they could have imagined.
"Can we drop the history crap and get out of here?"
Ever since Boris Karloff appeared in 'The Mummy,' Ancient Egyptian culture has provided the basis for numerous films and TV series designed to either dazzle the senses or send a chill right down to your bones. Part of why filmmakers go back to the Egyptian well time and time again is because the mystery of the pyramids and the fact that the culture provides the perfect allegory for man's quest to conquer the unknown. In the case of 'The Pyramid', the filmmakers must have been wondering if they could make a hybrid found footage horror movie that attempts to rip off better movies like 'The Descent' and 'Aliens.'
Father and Daughter archeologists Nora (Ashley Hinshaw) and Holden (Denis O'Hare) and their team have unearthed an incredible find in the deserts of Egypt. As the Egyptian government is about to collapse, the team has just uncovered a rare three sided pyramid. While under orders to evacuate the area and get to safety, Nora, Holden, their cameraman Fitze (James Buckley) the documentary director Sunni (Christa Nicola) and their robotics expert Zahir (Amir K) decide they must press on with the excavation.
Once they crack the seal to the tomb underneath the pyramid, they let loose poisonous fumes that kill one of the workers. Deciding to use an expensive experimental NASA rover robot to investigate, the team again turns away the advice from local officials to get the heck out of Dodge. When the rover goes off line, the entire team does the smart thing by grabbing gas masks and going in after their multimillion dollar piece of equipment.
Without any light and limited air supply, the team wonders into the underground maze. The narrow, short cavernous passageways lead the teem farther and farther along until they become hopelessly lost. As they try to find their way out, they quickly learn they are not alone in the tomb. Vicious tiny little cat-like creatures with dead eyes swipe, claw, and gnaw on the team as they try to flee from the darkness. Only what they don't know is something larger and far more sinister is hunting them.
This film first popped up on my radar when Alexander Aja became attached to the project. When I learned he was only onboard as a producer only - the hope I had for this movie began to wain. As I started to watch this movie, I couldn't help but wonder how this film got a wide theatrical release and wasn't simply dropped off on Syfy Channel's doorstep with a note saying "please give our film a decent timeslot." This is one of those movies where the smartest of the characters makes all of the dumb decisions and the idiot makes all of the smart and sane suggestions that no one listens to.
Adding to the woes of this movie is the fact that it's a not just a found footage movie - it's a found footage hybrid movie. That means it's not found footage at all times - which is really annoying. I'm not a huge fan of the found footage subgenre of movies, but when it works, it can be pretty solid entertainment. Here it just feels like a lazy excuse to have minimal production values and even less lighting. As it's not always a found footage movie which means the filmmakers took the time to stage some scenes and actually put an effort into this thing.
This is an extremely dark movie. Once our brilliant archeologists descend into the depths of the tomb - you're going to have a hard time seeing anything that doesn't have a camera light on it. I imagine part of this is to hide the cheep sets, but as members of the cast start to die off - it becomes increasingly more difficult to see what's going on. That is until a character turns on the night vision mode on his camera and then everything becomes green!
Then we get to the creatures - which should have been and easily could have been cool. They're hairless little cat-like monsters that leap out from dark corners and are legitimately creepy and gave me a jump or two… then the camera focused on them. For such a cheep movie it sports some of the worst CGI creature effects. There is a wonderfully hilarious scene where a character is impailed on spikes as the little adorable cat creatures gnaw on her. Only they're very obviously not real and it's just a woman wiggling her arms and legs around. Part of me really wants to talk about the incredibly terrible CGI for the final big momma monster, but I almost feel like that would be giving away too much. Now I know, I've basically been trashing this movie for the last couple paragraphs but in actuality I had a blast with it in that "so terrible it's good" sort of way.
When you can't see what people are afraid of or screaming in terror as they run away, it just becomes hilarious. Making it all the better is how this movie doesn't even attempt to play things for laughs. It's so 100% straight and committed to scaring the audience that it doesn't scare the audience, but instead it entertains them! Now to be fair, I didn't expect much from this movie. I was almost tempted to see it in theaters after watching the first trailer, but the terrible reviews came in and they pushed me away. And I can appreciate that. This isn't a movie I would have wanted to see in the theater. This is an "assemble your friends and riff away" kind of movie. Put it in your player, kick back and have fun - it's the only way you're going to enjoy this movie.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Pyramid' is unearthed on Blu-ray thanks to 20th Century Fox. Pressed on a BD50 disc and housed in a standard case with slipcover. A Digital HD code is included inside. After previews for Ultraviolet Digital HD, Wrong Turn 6, and American Horror Story Freak Show, the disc opens to the main menu.
If I could see what the heck was happening through 3/4 of 'The Pyramid' that would really help. For this 2.35:1 1080p transfer, the image is crushingly dark. Once the characters enter the tomb, I had to close all of my windows on a dark rainy day and shut off all my lights just to see what is going on. When the movie is above ground or given ample lighting, it's extremely beautiful to look at. The opening desert scenes are gorgeous, detail is fantastic, colors are bright and beautiful, black levels look incredible offering a ton of three dimensional pop. Once inside the tomb - kiss all that wonderful fine detail goodbye for long stretches of the movie save for intermittent moments where a flashlight is pointed at something or when the film drops the found footage elements. Also because a lot of the movie is shot handheld, there is a lot of motion blur when things get exciting. After watching something like 'The Admiral: Roaring Currents,' seeing this shoddy use of digital cameras is really distressing. Lighting is an important investment for any film and this film could have used a glow stick or two. Colors are hard to judge here, mostly because you can't see anything other than black.
The sound mix for 'The Pyramid' does earn some points. For a movie that is largely dialogue fronted, you never have trouble hearing the characters. Imaging is pretty good, but then the only real sounds to hear is some background ambient noise, some low town music, dialogue and the sound of footsteps on sand making this English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track kind of a let down. When things are happening, the sound is great, but so little happens beyond people screaming in terror that the audio channels rarely get much of a workout. In fact this may have actually benefitted from being a simple stereo down mix. 90% of the time the audio comes from the center channels anyway. It's not a horrible track, there just ins't much to write home about.
Extended Ending: (HD 1:06) I actually wish they'd left this little bit of added footage for the end. The movie was so ridiculous already why not leave in a goofy setup for a sequel?
- Fear: (HD 0:58) This is an audience reaction piece, and I got to wonder if the audience weren't seeing a different movie?
- Space Archaeology: (HD 2:11) This feature covers the use of satellites in archeology and its influence on the plot of the film
- Egyptian Myth: (HD 2:14) The filmmakers talk about their inspiration for doing a movie in an Egyptian pyramid like it was a new concept. I guess they never saw 'The Mummy?'
- Partners: (HD 1:28) This one covers the long standing friendship between producer Alexander Aja and director Grégory Levasseur and how they love making movies together.
Gallery: This is a collection of behind the scenes stills taken during production.
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 2:19) Yeah, the trailer is a lot better than the movie and actually goes further at explaining the plot and an "Egyptian Curse."
Sneak Peak: that played at the beginning of the disc for Ultraviolet HD, The Lazarus Effect, American Horror Story Freak Show, and Wrong Turn 6
Not being one to ever hate on a film, I will say that it is extremely hard to recommend 'The Pyramid' as an earnest horror movie. It's not all together terrible, it's above and beyond a better movie than something like 'Muck,' but it isn't anything wonderful either. In fact, it's probably best you watch this movie as a comedy! In that sense, with the right group of people you could have a good time with it. With such a poor dark image and mediocre audio and only some goofy extras, I got to call this one as being worth a rental only.