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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor  [June 16, 2013]





[]  The Pyramid is a new horror anthology film from Italy, with five directors and four tales -- each one concerning a pyramid statuette that is obviously inspired by Hellraiser's Lament Configuration box.

The pyramid is small, metallic, and can be shifted in puzzle box/Rubik's Cube fashion. It has metal prongs in a recess, making it easy for a guy to cut himself. Once his blood is drawn, the pyramid possesses him in Evil Dead fashion.

Naturally, people keep cutting themselves throughout the film.

Alex Visani (who wrote the entire screenplay and directed the first tale) admits that his film borrows from past horror films. "The Pyramid is a mix of horror and gore subgenres. Psychological horror, possession, supernatural, cannibal and zombie movies. It's a passionate homage to Hellraiser and the infinite genius of Clive Barker."

Visani also considers his film an homage to Mario Bava and "to an underrated, and mostly unknown, Italian director of the '90s, Fabio Salerno, who made the cult film Notte Profonda (aka Deep Night)."

In The Pyramid's first tale, a journalist finds the pyramid in the sort of mysterious curio shop found in so many horror films, serviced by the usual cryptic shopkeeper. When he cuts his finger on the pyramid, the journalist's hand becomes possessed, taking on a will of its own. After much agony, including attempts to cut off his hand, the journalist is transported to an alternate dimension filled with blue demons and torture porn devices.

The next morning, a maid finds the journalist's hotel room cleared of his belongings -- except for the pyramid. Which she promptly steals.

Thus begins the maid's tale of terror.

"The idea was to create a continuous connection between the stories," said Visani. "I wanted a full-length movie, not a collection of separate short movies. I wrote the screenplay in collaboration with actor Raffaele Ottolenghi, but every director in the project developed his own episode, following my guidelines."




By the third tale, the pyramid is possessing large groups of people, turning them into demonically possessed corpses that eat human flesh. The fourth tale is set in that aftermath -- a depopulated, post-zombie apocalypse world. A priest dispatches two warriors to find and destroy the pyramid before it achieves its ultimate goal -- facilitating the birth of Satan (or is it the Antichrist?).



The Pyramid is a slick film, production-wise. Its cinematography is beautiful and atmospheric, with an emphasis on desaturated colors. Makeup and special effects are impressive. The acting is strong. Its weakest point is the story.

While the concept is promising, and despite Visani's intent, The Pyramid does not feel like a single, cohesive story -- or even short stories -- but rather, a series of vignettes. The first three tales are basically identical. People cut themselves on the pyramid, become possessed, and practice self-mutilation and/or become crazed killers.

The third tale is the weakest. After some nice people's car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, they are set upon by a pack of flesh-eating, demonic zombies. Essentially, it's just another flesh-eating zombies vs. victims scenario. On the plus side, it's competently shot, albeit clichéd. There's the usual shaky camera and fast shutter speed (for that jittery motion) during the zombie attacks.



Another nice thing about a fast camera shutter (also used in the fourth tale) is that it's a great way to capture and freeze fast motion, such as a blood spurts (see above).

But while visually impressive, The Pyramid only picks up steam and gets really interesting by its fourth story, the film's most original. Its Christian warrior characters (see below) are not ignorant victims. Aware of the pyramid's power, they are proactive, with specific goals -- find the pyramid before it facilitates the birth of Satan. But by now the film is mostly over.



"I supervised the entire project, but every director involved put his passion and talent at the service of the movie," said Visani. "I think the different style of direction in every episode is the true strength of The Pyramid. The audience, every single time, will drift into a sort of different dimension, with a different atmosphere, and a different storyteller that will talk about one concept: pure evil."

I didn't notice any great difference in directorial styles. Despite having five directors, The Pyramid is visually consistent. Desaturated colors dominate almost the entire film. The blue demons were a bit brighter, but their cameo is brief. This visual consistency is not a bad thing. If anything, it helps unify what are disparate vignettes into a linear storyline.

Anthologies have long been popular among horror fans, but Visani also had financial reasons for making one. "I've always loved anthology horror movies, from Amicus to Creepshow. At the same time, it's a way to optimize the budget and the quality, because a full-length soloist project is more expensive and dispersive. In an anthology, you have less time to tell your story, but you can invest the budget to make a more accurate realization of the product.



"The budget was about 35,000 euros. We were able to keep it low because a lot of professionals involved in the project worked for free, because they believed in the movie. Without them probably the real budget would have been 100,000 euros."

The Pyramid was shot on Canon 5D and Canon 7D cameras, and edited on Final Cut. It's currently doing the film festival circuit. This June it will screen at Italy's Fanta Festival. In October it will be at the UK's Bram Stoker International Film Festival. The Pyramid has a sales rep, Dreamshill, and a website.


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