Considering how prevalent bullying has been in the social conversation as of late, filmmaker Yiuwing Lam’s Prank has definitely found itself in a relevant groove. It’s not just the film’s relevance, however, that makes it noteworthy; it’s actually really good, and when you couple that statement with the fact that it utilizes the “found footage” idea (something I’m not the most keen on), my praise for the film is strong indeed.
The set-up of Prank is that the footage we’re watching is police evidence; it’s the footage filmed by three misfits in high school that have found themselves routinely the target of bullying, in particular from a student named Dax ((Alastair Ferrie)). As Jordan (Henry Monfries), Connor (Nick Renaud) and Chunk (Gemmenne de la Peña) film their daily lives, a particularly over-the-top bit of bullying at Connor’s expense sets in motion the ultimate revenge prank against Dax, albeit one that goes horribly awry.
The first thing I ask myself when it comes to the “found footage” style is whether or not the film could’ve been told as well without it being utilized. In the case of Prank, I do think that a quality film could’ve been made without it, but I also don’t think that the stylistic choice takes away from the film at all; thankfully, this isn’t shakey-cam-crazy found footage. Like most people who operate cameras, it actually tries to stay in focus and with people in frame. Hell, a tripod is even utilized. I mention this because it has been a consistent pet peeve of mine for years, when filmmakers use a handheld footage style and, in an effort to make it look “more real,” they just shake the camera a lot. Like faux-documentary footage; most documentarians don’t want their footage to be shaking all over the place.
So, stylistic choice aside, we’re on to the story and acting. While the story tends to veer in and out of predictability (my instincts were right, but the film did a quality job of introducing enough turns and reasonable doubt to throw me off a bit), it at least moves forward in a strong, deliberate manner. Maybe the film could’ve been cut a bit tighter, but nothing truly drags so far as to make the experience the least bit boring. I enjoyed the pacing, and I liked seeing the progression of events as they went from bad to worse.
Where this film excels beyond all other aspects, however, is the acting performances. Nick Renaud’s Connor in particular deserves extra praise, as it’s his portrayal of a socially inept nerd pushed too far that really sells the film. Once his lust for revenge sets in, all reason and logic seems to fall to the side as he pushes to his goal of truly humiliating Dax. Unfortunately, he gets far more than he wants or can handle, and the emotional and mental fallout from there reveals that, for all his big talk and anger, he may not be prepared for the consequences of his own prank.
Again, Prank finds itself extremely relevant today due to the bullying aspect, but even if that weren’t on so many people’s minds right now, this would still be a very good film. It’s a doomed ride, and you know that from the very start, but it’s fun to figure out how it all gets that bad, and the film does a great job of being familiar while, at the same time, offering enough turns and twists to keep things from being obvious or pointless. I know some folks will be turned off by the “found footage” style, but I think this film utilizes it well.
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