Review: Pyramid Scheme? More like Pyramid Scream!

The Pyramid is a found footage horror movie from first time director, and frequent Alexadre Aja collaborator, Grégory Levasseur filled with sand, dirt, darkness, Anubis, and CatRats™.

Now that the positives have been discussed at length, let’s go ahead and take a look at some of the negatives of this motion picture extravaganza.  I have chosen a disjointed, inconsistent approach to doing this review as an homage to the film itself.  Scroll to the bottom of this review for the drinking game I created halfway into the movie.

The found footage genre is generally a polarizing one for genre fans.  It’s a cheap alternative to conventional filmmaking and, when done right, effective for first person jump scares and immersing the viewer in the environment.  The style itself works for the same reason people enjoy playing video games.  A good found footage horror film allows the story to unfold around the viewer, giving them only what the characters know and allowing both, character and viewer, to explore together.  A bad found footage horror movie is The Pyramid.

Why doesn’t the first person technique work in the Pyramid?  For one, it’s inconsistent.  There are multiple instances where the camera shifts to a traditional third person vantage point to ensure the mood and mystery of the scene are completely ruined for the viewer.  The Pyramid does a great job of cutting from first person to show there is no danger at the bottom of the stairs, around the corner, etc.  When The Pyramid is actually able to maintain its first person perspective, our hero Nora (Ashley Hinshaw) stubbornly trudges to the next cinematic checkpoint sometimes announcing her intentions as she progresses.  Watching her in this movie is like watching this person play Tomb Raider.  Another criticism on the film’s technique is more of a blanket statement for the whole found footage genre.  JUST BECAUSE THE FOOTAGE IS FOUND DOESN’T MEAN IT HAS TO CRACKLE AND GLITCH EVERY 7 MINUTES!

 

Here are some pictures of the film completely abandoning the found footage technique:

Screenshot 2015-05-03 02.11.30

 

 

Screenshot 2015-05-03 02.13.45

If there is a standout performance in this movie, it is Amir K’s take on “Zahir”.  He is the only actor who doesn’t seem wooden at any point in the film.  It’s not that the other actors in the film aren’t capable, they just have no material with which to work.  The horribly written dialogue and lazy character development could not have made their job any harder for them.  In an attempt to make lemonade out of a lemon of a movie, I have decided to offer alternate pieces of work for each of the three stars of the film.

If you want to see Ashley Hinshaw in a genre film that is fun and inventive (and not soul crushingly bad), check out +1.
Want to see Denis O’Hare give a shit?  Start out with season 1 of American Horror Story, or just about anything else he’s ever done.
James Buckley doesn’t always have completely flat punchlines, you can see him deliver ACTUAL comedy in The Inbetweeners!

Although the actors are not solely to blame for this trainwreck, they did say yes to the script and should be punished for their sins.  The screenplay for this movie completely turns the writing concept of “show, don’t tell” on its ear by reading like stereo instructions for a cartoon stereo with learning disabilities.  Here is a small sample of, what deserves to be, Razzie gold:

“Apex?”
“It’s the tip of the pyramid”

“SETI.  Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence.”

“Pyramids are incredibly airtight.”

“What is that smell?”
“Smells like…shit.”

“I’ve been rock climbing my entire life.”

“This is a warning.”
“A warning…a warning for what?”
“I don’t know.”

“STOP BEING AN ARCHAEOLOGIST FOR A MINUTE HERE, AND START BEING A HUMAN BEING!!”

Although The Pyramid didn’t actually win any Razzies, it did win 2 awards.  The presitgious “How is the song in the closing credits somehow even worse than the movie?” award.  And the coveted “That girl should clearly be left for dead because she got Mortal Kombat pit fatalitied and is currently being gnawed on by CatRats™.  Why are you trying to save her, and, real quick follow up, what will you do with her if you are successful in saving her?” award.  Congratulations to all of the nominees.

Screenshot 2015-05-03 04.11.09

All in all, The Pyramid is a cinematic thrill ride that should not be experienced alone*, nor should it be experienced at all*.

*If you absolutely have to watch The Pyramid, it should be watched in groups of unsober friends.  In an effort to find a silver lining for this film, I paused the movie 45 minutes in, made some salsa and jotted down/tested this drinking game:

DRINKING GAME DEVELOPED TO HELP YOU ENDURE THE PYRAMID

When conventional storytelling is eschewed for stating exposition and character information is given in blanket statements, take a drink

When found footage/POV perspective is broken, take a drink

When you see a CG CatRat™, take a drink

When a character gets inexplicably angry, take a drink

When a word/phrase is defined or explained, take a drink

When you hear the phrase “oh my god,” take a drink

When the film glitches and/or crackles, take a drink

Drink the entire time Anubis is on screen

When you need it to continue watching, take a drink

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