SXSW 2022: ‘The Prank’ Aces Horror Comedy

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The Prank - But Why Tho

Once something is on social media, it takes on a life of its own. That’s what happens in The Prank. Directed by Maureen Bharoocha and written by Becca Flinn-White and Zak White, The Prank stars Connor Kalopsis, Ramona Young, Rita Moreno, Keith David, and Kate Flannery. Celebrating its world premiere at SXSW 2022, the film offers up a dark comedy about students taking their hatred of a stern teacher way too far.

In The Prank, Ben is your typical high-school overachiever. He’s organized, careful, goal-oriented, extremely dedicated to school, and filled with anxiety about getting into college. That said, his best friend, Tanner, couldn’t be more opposite. She’s messy, a slacker, not a fan of boundaries, and lives in the moment. The two are best friends of the ride or die variety and when Ben is accused of cheating by his cruel physics teacher, Mrs. Wheeler (Rita Moreno), Tanner steps up to save his high school career.

Now, Mrs. Wheeler has been teaching at the school for decades and has a reputation for being the hardest, coldest, strictest faculty member. I mean, she’s been scaring generations of high school students, so to say she’s feared more than she is loved is the best way to describe her. When she fails Ben’s entire class unless a student who cheated comes forward, she also puts Ben on the spot, pointing her black-gloved finger directly at him. When no one does, Tanner and Ben use social media to accuse the cruel woman of killing a student who went missing years before.

What starts as a narrative that they have complete control over, or at least have guardrails on, morphs into an evolving lie that they can’t control. While this helps them get Mrs. Wheeler fired, the two have a change of heart and try to put the genie back in the bottle, finding themselves unable to. However, it starts to look like there is actually something more sinister in Mrs. Wheeler’s past that needs to come to light.

As a horror-comedyThe Prank excels thanks to its young stars and Moreno. It ultimately hits the right level of absurdity and twists. While there are some overtly comedic moments, it’s the film’s dry humor that sets it up for success. This is due in large part to Moreno’s performance as Mrs. Wheeler. Her stubbornness and dramatic delivery of lines that could sound completely comedic if the tone was changed seal the deal on the character.

There is a wickedness in Mrs. Wheeler that ranges from a bad teacher to Miss Trunchbull and beyond. To be honest, Moreno’s small frame and soft features are morphed into something entirely intimidating thanks to film’s costuming. Her sharp bob and black gloves add a stern edge to her visually, which makes the fear she strikes in her students and her colleagues all the more believable.

While The Prank isn’t without its pacing issues and some flat jokes, it is a heck of a lot of fun that is just here for a good time. Tanner and Ben are a dynamic duo that is easy to root for, especially when stacked against a truly terrible teacher. If you’re looking for something filled with a sense of mystery and humor, this is one to look out for.

The Prank had its world premiere at SXSW 2022 International Film Festival.


The Prank
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

While The Prank isn’t without its pacing issues and some flat jokes, it is a heck of a lot of fun that is just here for a good time. Tanner and Ben are a dynamic duo that is easy to root for, especially when stacked against a truly terrible teacher. If you’re looking for something filled with a sense of mystery and humor, this is one to look out for.