In the Summer before their senior year, three teens tried to execute the perfect prank on their bully. Instead, they executed him.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to be a supporter of found footage films, or at least films that use first person filming as their primary trope. There are still some good examples being produced but ultimately a new approach is required to maintain the audiences interest. Prank from writer / director Yiuwing Lam does take a slightly different approach but doesn’t quite succeed with its premise.
Connor (Nick Renaud), Jordan (Henry Monfries) and Chunk (Gemmenne de la Pena) are three high school students who have suffered for years at the hands of bullies. After one particularly unpleasant experience in a school toilet they, at the instigation of Connor, decide to carry out a prank to gain some revenge. For purposes never fully explained they record their planning and activities in order that they can later upload a finished version to the internet and cause the maximum embarrassment to their nemesis Dax (Alastair James) and his friend Omar (Rene Cadet). Inexplicably they record absolutely everything rather than just the planned sections and this gives the film its main problems.
As the story progresses the prank becomes more sinister than comical as relationships are tested to the limit and dark, hidden feelings are revealed.
Let me just say from the start that I didn’t really enjoy Prank. What should be natural and realistic behaviour came across as forced and unconvincing. At no time did I really believe in the characters or feel that the reasons for their actions were handled with any real conviction. That isn’t to say that the performances were poor; on the whole they were all good, although the bullies were very stereotypical, and dealt with the material as well as expected but it never felt like you were watching real footage. Another problem was that you could pretty much figure out where the film was going very early on. One of the very first shots in fact shows events very close to the end and as the story unfolds it becomes clear what is happening and where the twists are coming.
The revenge theme is an interesting one however and does add a different dimension to the original idea. Unfortunately though this isn’t enough to carry the film throughout. When the story takes a darker turn the change in the characters personalities is so striking and unjustified that it takes away from any slight involvement the audience may be feeling. The pranks as they begin are particularly unfathomable and confused and give no indication of actually being vengeful in the slightest.
The difficulty is that I think film-makers believe that producing a found footage film is an easy option. On the one hand there would be less production costs and time issues as the only images needing to be shown are what the camera sees. On the other hand the reason for the camera and the performances must be beyond question. Prank never really gets to grips with this at all. At no point do you really believe that these are real people and this is the biggest flaw. There are the usual moments with characters demanding that the camera is switched off immediately when it never is and if we are to really believe that the students were making a revenge film to upload to the internet then surely they would have edited it and erased anything incriminating.
As I said Prank didn’t really do much for me at all. I cannot imagine who would enjoy this film at all as there is little of interest to find. There are better found footage films out there, there are better teen revenge films out there. If the former is your choice for the evening seek out Evidence, if its the latter you want, find Heathers. Both are excellent, Prank is not.