Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the worst movie of 2014.
The first sign that The Pyramid was going to be a stinker was the fact that it is a horror film being released in the first month of December. Barring further research beyond thinking off the top of my head, I can't come up with another example of this. That's probably because this one particular week is a notorious dumping ground for the dreck of the holiday season, mainly because the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving are packed to the gills with the fourth quarter's biggest moneymakers before the Oscar campaign really begins. Why put anything out in theaters when you have Mockingjay, Penguins of Madagascar, and Horrible Bosses 2 to compete with?
Well, 20th Century Fox had a card up its sleeve, but unfortunately it was the two of hearts rather than the ace of spades: The Pyramid. Since this is a found footage movie, it opens with the requisite white-font-on-black-screen introduction in which we are told that the following material was discovered after a film crew disappeared in Egypt. We are then introduced to filmmaker Sunni (Christa Nicola) and her cameraman Fitzy (James Buckley), who are following father-daughter archaeologists Holden (Denis O'Hare) and Nora (Ashley Hinshaw) as they discover a hidden pyramid buried near the Great Pyramids of Giza. After a three million-dollar piece of equipment vanishes in the pyramid after being attacked by an unknown entity, the crew heads into it to recover the equipment, only to become trapped when the structure collapses.
Here's a problem: how is it that a movie that is set entirely in Egypt is populated almost exclusively with white characters? Yes, there is Corporal Shadid (Faycal Attougui), but the only purpose he serves is to yell at the other characters in Arabic and to freak them out. And don't point to Zahir (Amir K), because he doesn't count. He just goes by the name Mike, for crying out loud. This ranting is indicative of my lack of enthusiasm about this entire project, which seems equally uninterested in itself. Perhaps the only reason this film got off the ground—and particularly into wide release—is because Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D, Horns) produced it. The only name actor is O'Hare, who is probably best-known for his appearance in the first season of American Horror Story. All the other actors are positively C-list, especially Hinshaw, who is supposed to be the heroine of the story—she is the Final Girl, after all. She delivers her lines with all the conviction of a Disney Channel original series ingenue, yet we are also supposed to take her seriously as a scientist (and as a woman, if the gratuitous nudity early on is any indication). By comparison, O'Hare comes out smelling like a rose, even though he more or less sleeps through this movie.
The problematic casting and embarrassing acting pale in comparison to the horrific direction by first-timer Grégory Levasseur, who has co-writing credits on several Aja projects. The found footage approach is bad enough; by its very nature, it depends either on natural lighting or the limited illumination provided by the in-film cameras. The approach is therefore completely ill-suited to the pyramid environment, which is pitch-black (well, as black as digital film will allow). This translates into some truly miserable action scenes in which there is no lighting at all, plunging the allegedly climactic events into obscurity. How exhilarated are we supposed to feel at a character's near death if we can't even see it? Furthermore, Levasseur commits the found-footage sin of arbitrarily choosing when to use the character's cameras and when to completely abandon the concept, a method that persists throughout the entire film. It becomes difficult to accept that the finished product is the result of scrappy documentary camerawork rather than, y'know, a feature film with a budget and a professional crew.
The Pyramid is doing abysmally at the box office, something I experienced first-hand when I walked into the theater: there was only one other person there, and it was opening weekend. I turned around midway through the film and the gentleman had disappeared, never to return. The Pyramid can't even hold onto the few people who buy tickets to it. That fact alone is a review of this movie unto itself.