If you’re a big horror film fanatic, you’d probably walk into The Pyramid with a solid list of reasons to be positive:
1. It’s the directorial debut of writer/producer Greg Levasseur, who (along with frequent collaborator Alex Aja) brought us High Tension (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Mirrors (2008), Piranha 3-D (2010), and Maniac (2013). Whether you dig those films or not, you have to admit that it’s a pretty colorful array of sub-genres, and it’s always cool when horror-centric filmmakers try to cover a lot of bases.
2. We have a very provocative setting. The Pyramid, if we’re being honest, is little more than a standard “haunted house” movie, complete with cheap jolts, a few well-earned shocks, a nice portion of gore, and a few weird surprises towards the end — only it’s not a house; it’s a newly-discovered pyramid that’s actually buried beneath the desert, and that’s a little creepy all by itself.
3. Despite what the trailers may indicate, The Pyramid is only partially a “found footage” presentation. Two of the six characters have cameras, and the film often switches to their points of view, but fortunately the film isn’t married to that gimmick, and simply switches back to a traditional visual narrative when it needs to.
The plot couldn’t be simpler: five very unprofessional experts trek into a “brand-new” ancient pyramid they know nothing about, promptly get lost, and then spend about 65 minutes avoiding boulders, spikes, booby traps, mutated cats (yes, really), and a “head villain” you simply haven’t seen outside of maybe one of those Brendan Fraser mummy movies. Only The Pyramid is rated R, and it’s not particularly funny (and Brendan Fraser is nowhere to be seen). Our heroine here is Ashley Hinshaw, one of those “world class” scientists who appears to be about 23, tops, but she’s gorgeous and charming, so whatever. It’s a monster movie. It feels like a B- episode of Tales From the Crypt. Let’s roll.
For all its stock conventions, predictable plot contortions, and basic dialogue, The Pyramid does earn points on momentum, efficiency, setting, and nastiness. Clocking in at a smooth 89 minutes, the flick has plenty of plot holes, dialogue howlers, and questionable science to poke fun at, but it also manages to keep moving so quickly that you probably won’t even mind all that much. On the plus side, character actor Dennis O’Hare is quite good as the only real grown-up in evidence, as is Christa Nicola as a reporter who chose the wrong archaeological scoop and briefly lives to regret it. I also quite liked the score by Nima Fakhrara, and I figure that makes up for some dodgy digital effects and the fact that the writers let the “super annoying” character live way too long.
By the time The Pyramid stops wandering through nasty hallways and lays its cards down with a finale that’s as kinetic and gory as it is random and borderline insane, you’ll have either given up on the film completely or have sort of fallen under its old-school monster movie spell. Although The Pyramid is not likely to grace anyone’s Top Ten Horror lists, I say there’s always something to be said for a modern horror flick that combines Egyptian mythology, modern technology, old-school booby traps, and mutated kitty cats.