If there's anything that could imaginably help The Pyramid to stand out in the cramped world of low-budget horror (spoiler alert: there is not), it would be the surprising way that the film confounds the expectations of first-person camera filmmaking. The film equips itself with a grand total of three POV machines - one documentary cameraman, one badass archaeology chick with a little head camera, and one Mars rover on loan from NASA - which already sets us up with plenty of reasonably decent excuses to cut around locations like a proper movie, but that's apparently not sufficient for director Grรฉgory Levasseur (Alexandre Aja's longtime screenwriter making his directorial debut; Aja is on-hand to produce). Frequently, the film abandons those perspectives entirely, for a new position not merely where the characters aren't, but where they can't be: on at least two occasions, the camera sets up shop on the inside of a room that the characters are about to enter, a room that is specifically defined as being a place that humans have not set foot in a bajillionty-hundred years.

On the one hand, I admire Levasseur's decision; it allows him access to the one dubious strength of the first-person style (we more closely identify with the characters in the moment of a jump scare) without having to shackle himself to its many, many limitations of cheap-looking footage and tortured justifications for including any kind of camera in every single scene. But then, having given itself room to actually do something with the form, The Pyramid doubles-down, hard, on the found-footage conceit that has increasingly been silently abandoned by first-person movies: the very first thing that we see are title card explaining with documentary crispness that what we're about to watch is the record of what happened outside of Cairo on such and such a date in 2013. Those with a keen sense of recent history will thus be able to guess what the second thing that we see turns out to be: smoke billowing out of Cairo and masses of political protesters, whose actions sit way deep in the background of the movie's plot, crassly setting up a ticking clock that feebly drives the action as the first act shades into the second. Is it the most tasteless insertion of tremendously significant real-life events into a junk drawer horror picture in all of history? No, certainly not. But might very well be the most tasteless of such gestures in 2014, particularly when we take the time to note that of the six primary characters, the two specifically defined as being ethnically Egyptian are also the first two to die.

Anyway, this conceptually unsound depiction of what happened on that fateful day initially takes the form of footage being shot by "Fitzie" (James Buckley), of bold, adventurous Sunni (Christa Nicola), who is by all accounts a documentary filmmaker, though we absolutely never see her perform any action that suggests that she's not a second-string news reporter. They're there to capture the exciting new discovery made by father-daughter archaeologist team Holden (Denis O'Hare) and Nora (Ashley Hinshaw), he a fusty old traditionalist, she a tech-savvy progressive, whose work with satellites (we see one such satellite, from a perspective somewhere in outer space; so much for found footage) has uncovered an unknown pyramid beneath the Egyptian desert. And not just any pyramid; a three-sided pyramid! Or as we call them in the real world, a tetrahedron, but superstar high-tech archeologists don't have time for no ten-cent words.

Just after determining that the pyramid has some kind of horrible toxic dust polluting its air, but before sending their Mars rover "Shorty", operated by hunky engineer Michael (Amir K), into its dark depths, the team is interrupted by word that the government has pulled all archeological permits until the protests have died down. Under the shouty eye of Corporal Shadid (Faycal Attougui), the team packs up, but Nora manages to convince everybody to just send Shorty in for a few minutes. And having done so, it gets attacked by some barely seen rat-cat hybrid hellbeast. That should be that, but Michael starts to panic about the shit that will be rained down upon him if he doesn't retrieve the rover, and so do all five of our heroes end up trucking on into the pyramid, where they discover many spooky engravings, some more of the hellbeast, and an even bigger, nastier hellbeast to boot, all while piecing together enough evidence to prove Egyptian cosmology, a development that doesn't seem to seriously concern anybody, including writers Daniel Meersand & Nick Simon.

The best thing that could have happened to The Pyramid was opening just a handful of months after the largely similar (first person, underground, end up stumbling into the actual physical place where the afterlife is located) As Above, So Below, which remains one of the most infuriatingly shitty horror films I've seen in the 2010s. The Pyramid is merely bad: not doing anything acutely wrong, just sort of lying there limp,clumsily mixing its visual metaphors while relying on some hilariously bad dialogue to keep the movie on its rickety rails. Most of this falls to poor Holden, whose nearly every line functions less as "I'm saying something that I, as a person, think" than, "I'm saying something that I, as a cog in this barely-functioning machine, need to express in order to make things unnecessarily clear to the audience". Not just mythology things. Backstory between him and his daughter things, of a sort that does not matter. Like the bit where he nastily talks down her interest in extra-terrestrial life. Would you suppose that means that aliens will end up having anything to do with the rest of the movie, or at least that Nora's susceptibility to paranormal musings will come into play? You would, in that case, suppose wrong.

The one thing that The Pyramid does manage to do is set up a reliable drip of jump scares, insofar as that makes the world a better place. It also has modestly effective monster design: the more we see of the big bad boss monster, the more it looks like low-budget CGI gone amok, but the catbeasts are effectively creepy, looking just enough like real animals (kind of like if you threw some Sphynx cats into glowing green sludge) that they seem like actual perversions and not the work of an overindulged effects designer. One particular shot, with their little eyes glowing red as they chase the characters, is legitimately atmospheric and spooky in all the best ways.

So that's one 10-second shot out of 89 minutes; not the worst batting average for a horror film of this ilk. There's plenty about The Pyramid that's tedious, from its characters who are far too stupid in far too many ways to remotely convince us that they actually practice their established professions, to its jerry-rigged and clichรฉd escalation of tension (that is to say, it's "escalation" of "tension"), but... no, actually, it's just tedious.