Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Pyramid

Look, folks, if you're going to see one horror movie this weekend, go to the Brattle and see The Babadook; it is better in nearly every way but the presence of ancient Egyptian monsters. But I like this sort of movie a lot more than slashers that don't involve crawling through ancient tunnels, potentially getting buried in sand, or falling into a pit whose floor is filled with spikes. I had fun and got that little thing where I wanted to the movie to keep going with this a lot more than I often do with not-good movies.

I admit, I'm mostly a mark for this sort of thing in superficial ways. I gawp at ancient Egypt exhibits whenever I get the chance even if I don't actually learn a whole lot - and I've given myself more chances than usual in the past year, seeing the King Tut display in Montreal this summer and the impressive set-up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art a couple weeks ago. The part of my brain that likes the old and alien responds, and I kind of wish filmmakers would play to it more often.

But, still - Babadook first. Then this. Then other ancient Egypt stuff when Exodus hits next week.

The Pyramid

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 5 December 2014 at Regal Fenway #8 (first-run, 4K DCP)

I can (and to a certain extent, will) rattle off the ways that The Pyramid is disappointing, subpar, and lucky to find a particularly barren release date in order to avoid a direct-to-VOD fate. But even though I can see the film's weaknesses, I readily admit - I kind of love this sort of adventure-horror, with the underground chambers full of writing in dead languages and secret passages and death-traps, so I'm inclined to cut it some slack. That said, the filmmakers do a better job than most trying to make a modern horror movie out of this sort of pulp adventure.

With last year's protests and confrontations in Cairo as the backdrop, we're introduced to father/daughter archaeologists Miles (Denis O'Hare) and Nora Holden (Ashley Hinshaw), investigating a completely buried tetrahedral pyramid some sixty miles away that was found via satellite radar. Just as they find a tunnel in, the dig is called off, with orders to evacuate the foreigners. Nora's boyfriend Michael Zahir (Amir K) manages to buy a little time to send a robot down the tunnel, but when they lose the signal, they opt to retrieve NASA's multi-million-dollar piece of equipment, with documentarian Sunni (Christa Nicola) and her cameraman Fitzie (James Buckley) in tow. This, obviouslly, is not a great idea.

There is a fair bit of unnecessary ornamentation to the movie, especially at the beginning; the perfunctory character introductions are not only bog-standard but don't even set up conflicts and traits that will pay off later: The early discussion of how Miles doesn't really cotton to Nora's high-tech methods (think Sam Neill not getting along with the imaging systems in the opening minutes of Jurassic Park without the charm) matters not at all once they're inside the pyramid, and a comment about how Fitzie always has to get the shot seems really strange when his defining characteristic has been wanting to run away. There is enough effort put into establishing video sources in the beginning to make the film seem like it will be found-footage until director Gregory Levasseur decides to go the hybrid route, making a conventional movie with a lot of first-person shots.

Full review at EFC.

No comments: