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Movie of the Day: The Pyramid (2014)

26 May

Pyramid

Right out of the gate, The Pyramid loses me.

This is a movie about an ancient pyramid that is discovered buried under the sands of Egypt that is unusual in that it has only three sides excluding the base.  That means it’s actually a tetrahedron.  I have the strangest feeling that no one involved with this film thought of that, nor did anyone observe that the decayed old mummy featured on the movie’s poster is nowhere to be found in this movie.  The fact that there isn’t a mummy in this movie was one of many sucker punches, and so is the fact that the movie ends on a note so arbitrary that it forced me to wonder if maybe the filmmakers ran out of money.  I was soon to discover that this is the least of this movie’s problems.

The Pyramid is a strange duck.  It was released in December of 2014 but only to limited markets and with a very limited ad campaign.  That means that half the country (the lucky half) didn’t get a chance to plunk down their money to see it in a theater.  Hardly anyone went to see it, it made around $2 million on a $20 million budget.  Not that it would have mattered; this is a movie that, anywhere it’s playing, is really just taking up space.

Basically it is Alien at an archeological dig siphoned through the shopworn gimmick of found footage.  You remember found footage?  It’s that hackneyed, overused, and annoying practice of having the whole movie filmed by one of the character and is suppose to give you the feeling that you’ve, well, found the footage?  It’s a gimmick that was introduced in The Blair Witch Project back in 1999 and which I grew weary of around the year 2000.  The good news is that only half of The Pyramid is filmed that way, the bad news is that the other half is still there.

But let’s get to the story.  The team at the dig site seems understandably excited about this historic find.  They include Dr. Miles Holden (Denis O’Hare) an old school archeologist who does things the old fashioned way; his nubile daughter Nora (Ashley Hinshaw) who does things the new-fashioned way.  There Sunni (Christa-Marie Nicola), a documentary filmmaker.  There’s Fitzie, the cameraman.  And there’s Michael, the tech-guy who has brought along an obscenely expensive rover nicknamed “Shorty.”  They aren’t hard to like but you know from experience that getting attached is a bad idea.

The plot has promise.  The team has come to Egypt to be part of the discovery of an ancient tetrahedron (I refused to call it a pyramid) that is buried 600 feet beneath the sand.  There is a political uprising in nearby Cairo so the team has to work fast because the army is ordering them out of the area.  When the pyramid tetrahedron is opened, it expels poison gas that kills one of the dig site workers.  The team is ordered to gather their things for an evacuation but they decide that they won’t be deterred from their shot at fortune and glory.  Out of the line of sight of the Egyptian army, Holden’s team send in Shorty to get a look, but they soon lose contact and decide to go in and retrieve it.

Entering the pyramid tetrahedron to retrieve the rover the team gets turned around with no way out.  They find themselves at the mercy of crumbling floors, smashing boulders and ominous hieroglyphics that inform them that this pyramid tetrahedron is home to something that is neither giving nor benign.  What that something is I cannot divulge or would I want to (it’s far too stupid to waste words here). What I can say is that it has an army of hairless, mutated, flesh-eating feral cats at its disposal.  Yes, Hairless, Mutated, Flesh Eating, Feral Cats.  It is a sight that must be seen to be believed.

Much of The Pyramid Tetrahedron you can guess for yourself.  The members of the team are picked off one by one in creative ways (and not just by the cats); the worst is one poor sap whose fate is met when the pyramid tetrahedron’s resident antagonist deems his soul unworthy and causes him to crumble to dust.  The others are picked off by silly, ancient movie traps that I haven’t seen put to good use since Abbott and Costello met The Mummy (you now, spikes in the wall, sand traps, plot holes – the usual)

This is a very boring movie.  With a running time of only 79 minutes, the movie quickly begins a pattern of repeating itself that grows tiresome.  Since the movie is found footage, that means that it takes place with cameras in dark places, meaning that for much of the time you can’t see anything.  When you can see something it hardly matters.  Not surprisingly, the better parts of the movie are the scenes not shot as found footage.  For those scenes, the director does manage to achieve a sense of claustrophobia and the feeling of being in tight spaces.  But, to be honest, I’d give that up for more scenes of the hairless, mutated, flesh-eating feral cats.  In a movie with nothing new and nothing surprising, that’s at least something that I can say I hadn’t seen before.  That’s . . . progress?

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