Please Punish Me (2015) – By Kirsten Walsh

This short film is a great, somewhat silly piece of independent filmmaking. Chris Esper’s vision in “Please Punish Me” is clear, concise, and intriguing. That being said, a major issue was how the world of BDSM played into it at all.

Scotty is a well-to-do businessman who could care less about his job, but somehow can do no wrong in the eyes of his company. After receiving a promotion over people who cared a lot more than he did, he decides he needs something a little more risky in his life. When a co worker hands him a business card for the “Punish Me Palace”, he heads there for intrigue and the obvious- punishment, as he does not feel that his promotion was warranted. After he arrives at the palace (a beautiful New England style house- reminiscent of the house from the horror film, “House of the Devil”), he is greeted by a gruesome receptionist who reveals his story of a man who attended the house one too many times, lost his job, family, and couldn’t pay. It seemed that he was trying to instill fear in both Scotty and the audience, but it came across as more humorous than spooky. From there, Scotty is introduced to what can be assumed as the house dominatrix (her name is “Do-Re-Mi”….another joke?) who takes him back to meet his lady for the hour, a new girl. Rather than punish him, the new girl ends up bonding with him and they ultimately spend their time sharing stories (especially her somewhat sob story of being a single mother of a three year old). The end is uplifting, as Scotty leaves a kind tip for the new girl and goes on his way. A simple story about happiness in the workplace and what it takes to truly find it perhaps?

As far as a technical film, this one is not. The lighting is extreme at points, especially once Scotty enters the “palace”. This works in some scenes, such as the receptionist scene, but not in other shots, as it flattens the actors’ faces and makes everything bland with little contrast. It appears that they attempted to mix blue light from the outside windows and world in with the red glow of the house, but there just doesn’t seem to be enough contrast from the blue. Also, it appears that the lighting rigs were set up below the actors’ faces, causing extreme shadowing, which doesn’t seem to work as well when more than one actor is focused on. The sound also leaves more to be desired. It seems that the production team didn’t use lavs, which leaves most of the sound to be captured from off camera mics. This causes a few of the new girl’s lines to be lost in the environment, as well as the lines to be lost to the echoes of the location. The close ups of course allow for clean cut sound, but for the wider shots, it appears that there was no close place to capture good sound from. Also, the whip sounds are so over the top, but it is to be assumed that adds to the humor.

The actors do a great job carrying the somewhat humorous script and bringing it to life, but there isn’t enough time to truly develop a good understanding of Scotty and his motives, or any of the other characters.

Would I watch it again? Well, I watched it two times, so I definitely would. It is a cute piece that would be great on the festival circuit.

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