#SXSW: “THE PRANK”
By David Baldwin
It’s Mid-Term time and Ben Palmer (Connor Kalopsis) is desperate to get his grades. He needs to submit them to his choice colleges, and science teacher Mrs. Wheeler (Oscar-winner Rita Moreno) is holding him up. Seems like someone cheated in her class, and Wheeler is adamant to discover who – at the expense of giving every student an F as she waits. Freaking out, Ben confides in his slacker and coding genius friend Mei (Ramona Young from Never Have I Ever), but strongly discourages her from doing anything about it. Mei does not listen of course, and ends up constructing an elaborate online prank suggesting that Mrs. Wheeler is a serial killer. And it just went viral.
THE PRANK is an outrageously-silly film that would fit in well with the crop of ’90s Horror films that popped up in the wake of Scream. It does not take itself seriously, it dials-up the tension well past plausibility and it has a satirical edge that it consistently tries to inject into the proceedings. It has an amusing tongue-in-cheek style as it lampoons social media and those gullibly-pesky Boomers. If any of those words make no sense to you, than you are not well equipped for what THE PRANK is all too excited to throw at you. Or at least, what it is willing to throw at you during the first two acts. When the Third Act hits, it becomes genuinely chaotic, unruly, and completely unsure of itself. It comes to its logical conclusion, only to continue on a through line ripped from an entirely different movie that trades humour for becoming substantially more preposterous.
While the acting is hit and miss (minus a very campy Keith David, who seems to be acting on an entirely different plane of existence away from everyone else), what remains rock solid throughout is Moreno. From the very start, she is having an absolute blast diving into this mysterious, diabolical character. She chomps right through the scenery and feasts on anyone that gets in her way. She understands the assignment all too well, and relishes in playing such an awful individual. The sinister energy she brings to the picture is reason enough to watch THE PRANK. She just deserved a better outlet to showcase it in.
THE PRANK screens at SXSW ‘22 as follows:
Sunday, March 13 at 12:45PM EST – ZACH Theatre
Tuesday, March 15 at 9:30PM EST – Alamo Lamar B
Thursday, March 17 at 3:45PM EST – Alamo Lamar E
Monday, March 14 at 10:00AM EST – Available for 48 Hours