Review by Chris Olson
A disaffected yuppie looks for an exotic escape from the so-called “luck” of his life after being given the business card for a place called the “Punish Me Palace”. Stepping into the bizarre and disturbing establishment, our hero is shocked by the violent methods used to give patrons pleasure, however, a heart-to-heart with a whip-bearing dominatrix could prove the life-changing experience he was hoping for.
There is a light-hearted yet macabre tone to Esper’s short film that delightfully complements the inner turmoil, and personal journey, of the main character Scottie (David Sackal). Whilst the dark intrigue of the Punish Me Palace is the setting for a literally rude awakening, moments of scripted comedy are used to adorn the walls, allowing an entry point for the viewer, who may otherwise be put off by the strong element of adult naughtiness.
It is fantastic to see a pulsating theme running through this movie, at one point Scottie says “I feel like I’m succeeding down a path I don’t even want.”, which perfectly highlights the crisis point that is the foundation of this story. It's an idea that many audiences will relate to; growing up and being a “success” in society’s eyes may very well be the antithesis of your own measure of success. Scottie wanted to be a cartoonist, but now attends smoke-filled business meetings full of guffawing fat cats, silently aching to break free of the corporate chains that keep him in bondage.
Seeking a different kind of bondage, the Punish Me Palace offers visitors a chance to absolve themselves of ill-feeling through sadistic methods. Scottie makes up some lies about himself in order to “deserve” a whipping, but ends up having a deep-and-meaningful with the whipper Michelle (Joanna Donofrio), where they find the answers to each other’s dilemmas through words not whips.
Aside from a slightly too gothic musical score, Please Punish Me is an impressive short film. The performances are believable, offering up a decent array of balanced characters. Sackal does well to toe the line between comedy fool and dramatic lead, whilst Donofrio steals the ending with a strong and evocative portrayal of this troubled woman.
The screenplay, written by Rich Camp, has a fluid professionalism that moves the plot along superbly. Chris Esper shows fluent directional prowess during the 15 minute run time, with each scene contributing brilliantly to this vivid tale of introspection.