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John’s Horror Corner: The Pyramid (2014), death by starving feral Sphinx cats and weak Egyptian death Gods.

November 30, 2015

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MY CALL: This is one of those movies that you “hope” will be good, but isn’t.  Maybe it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve seen this month either.  I won’t recommend it to anyone looking for a good “scary movie” night.  But this would make an excellent drinking game or “friends’n’beer” flick.  MOVIES LIKE The PyramidThe Last Exorcism (2010) and Grave Encounters (2011) take similar approaches but find considerably more successful results.

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With the same playful and cheeky approach of The Last Exorcism (2010) and Grave Encounters (2011), this film opens like an upbeat documentary about an anthropological expedition that would air on the Discovery or History Channel.  A team of scientists aim to excavate and explore a completely buried pyramid whose age predates most Egyptian history, indicating possible extraterrestrial origins for this uniquely three-sided pyramid (others being four-sided) and nods to the SETI program (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence).  With one archaeologist being an extraterrestrial skeptic and his daughter the “alien hypothesizer” we find satisfying witty exchanges that stage not only their character dynamic but the story itself.  At this point, the film has promise.

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Once the pyramid is discovered to be defended by deadly booby-traps, they send in a cute little NASA Mars rover that looks like Wall-E’s cousin to probe the interior.  Of course, the rover encounters “something” and is disabled.  So, again of course, the team has to go in to recover the important NASA robot and ends up trapped inside this giant labyrinthine tomb along with what seem to be very large, hairless, flesh-eating rats.  This is about where the movie shifts from promising to…well, something less palatable.  Let’s just say Of Unknown Origin (1983) was a much better “man versus monstrous rat” movie and AVP (2004) was a much better “trapped in an alien pyramid” movie.

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First-time director but experienced horror writer Grégory Levasseur (High Tension, Mirrors, The Hills Have Eyes, Maniac) introduced this film nicely in the first 15-20 minutes, but then completely lost his footing and fell face-first into a spiked pit quite early in this film.  It should be noted that he had no part in actually writing this film and also that, while some scenes are presented through handheld camera POV, this really isn’t a found footage film.

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So these rats actually turn out to be Egyptian cats (of the Sphinx breed) which, by some super strength, manage to pull a PA3Toby backbreak” pulling a victim down a tiny corridor.  I guess this was very entertaining, but simultaneously very awful.  The general menace of these cats persists for quite a while and eventually my concern was growing that this whole movie was going to be about these feral Sphinx cats hunting down our scientists.  <<FACEPALM>>  But then, pretty much out of some random grab bag of plot ideas pulled from a hat, the CGI jackal-headed Egyptian God Anubis arrives to “weigh” our protagonists’ souls on the myth-told scales.  Now he is the bad guy…and a dumb one at that.

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The scenes with the poorly CGI’d Anubis aren’t cool, the plot goes nowhere interesting, the cats attack Anubis in a lame CGI mess, and a young scientist defeats the God Anubis with a road flare…did you get that?  Defeated a GOD with a flare!!!  OMFG, I can’t believe this lunacy hit theaters.

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So this happens.  And no, it’s not from a ScyFy Channel direct-to-TV movie-of-the-week.

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After the characters entered the pyramid, I really never gave a damn about them or what happened to them.  The charismatic introductions of the first act have been completely squandered.  That short first act was good, even great by horror standards.  But everything fell apart thereafter.  In an attempt to cultivate tension and the need for escape, people were being infected with some sort of flesh-rotting fungus.  That didn’t work either.

Nothing in this film worked except for our introduction to the characters.  The cast includes Denis O’Hare (American Horror Story, True Blood) as the lead scientist, Ashley Hinshaw (Chronicle, True Blood) as his scientist daughter, and James Buckley (The Inbetweeners).  They all did very well in the beginning and then fell prey to the writing before the Sphinx cats could finish them off.

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This is one of those movies that you “hoped” would be good.  It wasn’t.  But maybe it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve seen this month either.  I won’t recommend it to anyone looking for a good “scary movie” night.  But this would make an excellent drinking game or “friends’n’beer” flick.

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