Pranks Not Dead is the third entry in the MNL48 Presents series (or fourth, depending on whether or not you would count 2020 Vision as the first entry to the series) and it deals with a Mean Girls-type plot where the three most popular girls of the controversial MNL University decided to commit premeditated murder on live stream by adding a fourth member to the group only to prank her by sending a frog instead of a cheap plastic crown (thus driving the victim to suicide. I’m scared with how I think sometimes.).
The visuals are pretty normal by TVDG standards so that’s a bit of an expected thing but I kinda liked how they patterned it like a made-for-TV documentary a la Dark Side of the Ring or Making a Murderer.
Audio is the same, nothing special of sorts except for two things: the track used to introduce the “Campus Cuties” because it sounded like the theme song from SummerSlam 1999 (which, by the way, came from an album for stock music from Extreme Music). The whole album can be seen here.
The second thing is that High Tension, as ending music, is not a good fit for the theme of the movie. I am for shilling your product but this is neither the time nor the place as High Tension doesn’t fit a movie about “mean girls” getting their comeuppance.
In terms of writing, there are some factual errors on the script (i.e. the current constitution was written two years before 1989 as far as history is concerned) and there are some holes in the plot like how was Rachel not able to get wind of Cassie’s plan? Why isn’t Cassie dead after she clicked on the Tina Severo video? Is Becky all in on this? Who was this “confidential source” who leaked the secret Zoom meeting to MNLU Investigatives?
Unfortunately, this was never resolved but there are some “obvious answers” like Pam (the supposed victim) or Becky (the only person who is aware of the plan and decided not to be involved in any of that stuff).
This, my friends, is what I’d like to call the “white hummer” plot device wherein something happens to a certain character (i.e. someone went missing after a fishing trip) and everybody else is trying to find out who or what did it, only for it never to be resolved.
I coined it after a segment on a June 1999 episode of WCW Monday Nitro where the titular vehicle crashed into the limousine Kevin Nash was trapped on, only to have it never resolved or mentioned again until the year after.
For more information about this or if you wanted to tell me that I am wrong, you can refer to this great entry from Ring The Damn Bell here.
The other major thing I can point out, in terms of writing, is how the swerve was handled.
I’d understand the whole swerve if the stuff leading to it were fleshed out like what happened to the frog? Was there supposed to be a frog in the first place?
It also seemed that Becky was never used at all, like she’s just standing there, only to be mentioned by Cassie in a throwaway line where she started to give more input to whatever the hell Campus Cuties does.
I believe she could’ve been used better like how she can be Rachel’s right hand person or how she can be the person who tried to put Cassie to the Shadow Realm by sending the Tina Severo video, thus being a Scott Hall to Cassie’s Kevin Nash (okay, enough with the wrestling references).
All in all, Pranks Not Dead was written like a Netflix documentary with a hint of late-90’s pro wrestling show added into it. The whole story was written competently, although there are some holes that not necessarily you can drive a truck through but enough to stick your finger in it, the girls giving us non-Oscar worthy performances but good enough to be on a TVDG miniseries, the way they made it like a serial killer documentary and that character arc for Colleen’s character from a stuck-up bitch to a seemingly better person and some nods to continuity (Tina Severo) and other 48G groups (BNK University).
It’s leagues better than Bye, Us and it improved what Chain had done well so far. You should probably give this a try.