Directed by Alejandro Espinoza & Michael Benton Starring Trey Brandon & Michael Jenkins Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Violent short comedy film, Paying Bills Be Like..., is a frenetic blast of zingers and horror special effects, that sees two roommates (Trey Brandon and Michael Jenkins) fight over paying the latest bill that has arrived at their home. Rather than solve their dilemma with organised accounting or thriftiness, the two engage in a no-holds-barred bout of fisticuffs involving all manner of weaponry. Reminiscent of violent physical comedies like Bottom or The Young Ones, this American short film from filmmakers Alejandro Espinoza and Michael Benton captures the chaos of those shows, with the maniacal characterisation that somehow makes these aggressive people seem likeable, whilst placing the tongue-in-cheek humour inside a more horrific setting. The key to making these characters appealing is in the dialogue, which is full of sharp banter and winter rejoinders. Such as when Jenkins ends up with a piece of vinyl lodged in his cranium, and blurting out "Thanks bro! Now I'm going to have that [EXPLETIVE] song stuck in my head all day." Or when an adult pleasure device becomes a prop in the proceedings, the line "That was a real dick move!" is delivered with straight-faced irony. The third character in Paying Bills Be Like... is the delightful horror makeup and special effects. Much like the brash comedy, the flawed, almost laughable appearance is what becomes most endearing about it. If there was perfection to the injuries the effect would be lost. At times brutally crude, and at others marvellously effective, the blood and bruises flow with ceaseless gratuity. There is an energy between the two performers which gets explored through this combat, allowing their personalities to be revealed in an unorthodox and entertaining way. The score is brilliantly effective too, in collaborating with this chaotic aesthetic. There is horror and suspense, coupled with pathos and inspiration (especially during Brandon's attempt to triumph during a knife fight), and at no point is this juggling of genres jarring because it completely suits the tone that Espinoza and Benton create. There existed a slight over reliance on the word "bro" in the script, which seemed to be one of the few areas that needed more attention. Whilst the comedy was well written, and well executed by Brandon and Jenkins, the emotional pull of their relationship gets substituted for theatrics when it comes to the dialogue. That being said, Paying Bills Be Like... is a short film to be swept up in the kinetic frenzy of, rather than any intelligent dissection of lines or discussion of larger thematic ideas. When comedy and physical horror collide as well as this, audiences will be hard pressed to stifle the guffaws. Paying Bills Be Like... is a gratuitously funny film about the frustrations of adulthood with the senseless violence we would wish to unleash if the world allowed us. Viewers will enjoy living vicariously through these entertaining and visceral characters.