Prank (2012) – By Cary Conley

Two soon-to-be high school seniors have been subjected to constantly bullying their entire school careers. Conner is the ultra-nerd everyone knows from high school. He can quote Star Trek and his goal in life is to attend as many Star Trek conventions as he can. Conner’s friend Jordan is extremely smart, and while not quite the geek Conner is, he has been doomed to nerd-dom due to his intellect and his choice of friends. Since elementary school, Jordan has pined for the beautiful and super-popular Eve Goodwin, the stereotypical blonde, blue-eyed cheerleader. Of course, Eve doesn’t even know Jordan exists.

The two nerds have suffered throughout school at the hands of the hunky and humongous man-child, Dax Gaiman and his partner in crime, the equally strong and vicious Omar. For reasons only Dax and Omar know, they have saved their worst tortures for Conner. This time out, Dax breaks Conner’s nose and flushes his head down a dirty public toilet. Conner has had enough. He feels like it’s time to take a stand, and he wants to use Jordan’s new video camera. His plan is to pull the greatest prank ever seen on Dax, record it, and post it on Youtube to further humiliate Dax. The duo hatch a plan to kidnap Dax and use an empty pistol to play a game of Russian Roulette with Dax, hoping to force him into a recorded apology to the two boys which can then be displayed on the Internet for everyone to see. But the plan goes awry when Conner leaves the recording room to shoo away an unwanted guest only to return to see that Jordan has accidentally shot and killed Dax. As events continue to spiral downward, Jordan takes over, killing Omar, dismembering both corpses, and forcing Conner to help him bury the evidence. But just as things seem to be working themselves out, Conner realizes that Jordan had another plan the entire time and in a weird twist, the situation again goes out of control. Will Jordan and Conner live to escape the terrible events that have taken place? Will the police discover what has happened and arrest the two friends? Or does Jordan have an even more nefarious future plan?

Prank is writer/director Yiuwing Lams’s first full-length feature film, having previously made a handful of shorts, and the topic is a timely one. In an age when bullying–and particularly cyber bullying–has caused a handful of controversies across the U.S., Prank takes on this hot topic and pulls no punches. Filmed in the cinema verite style (similar to The Blair Witch Project, REC, and Paranormal Activity, among other films), Prank documents the events leading up to the prank as well as the tragic circumstances that occur during and immediately after the prank. While we typically think of shooters in black trench coats or tortured souls who commit suicide rather than continue to suffer more bullying, staging a prank against one’s attackers that goes horribly wrong is also a natural and realistic progression of these events; frankly, I’m surprised we haven’t heard of this happening in real life. The fact that these events are "recorded" by Conner and Jordan in pseudo-documentary style lend further realism to the proceedings.

While there are really only a handful of characters in the film, the real stars are Nick Renaud as Conner, Henry Monfries as Jordan, and Alastair Ferrie as Dax. Ferrie is perfectly evil as the mean-spirited bully while Renaud is excellent as he portrays first a nerd, then a young man who has had enough, and finally a terrified youth who can’t believe he has so completely lost control of the proceedings. But it is Monfries who must be singled out as giving a perfectly chilling performance as Jordan, the nerd who discovers he has a talent for murder and luxuriates in his newfound power over Conner and the others. The other supporting characters are all excellent as well, in parts of varying sizes.

Many times the mention of the word verite conjures images of headache-inducing shaky camerawork; this is not true of Prank. While there is a certain amount of camera movement that is necessary for this type of film, it never becomes distracting. In fact, the camerawork is terrific. While there are some killings, everything happens off-screen and the blood is fairly minimal. This is no gorefest. Lam is not interested in creating a bloodbath for the sake of on-screen violence; he has much more to communicate other than violence.

Prank is a very well-made crime feature that is entertaining but also carries a timely message about bullying and revenge. I enjoyed the film tremendously and look forward to seeing more from this director soon. Prank was produced by Plan 9 Entertainment and has just recently been completed. For more information about screenings and distribution, go to www.theprankmovie.com.