KILL THE ENGINE – “WE CAN’T EVEN DO THIS RIGHT”

Directed by Derek Frey  | Review by Helen Wheels

Fade in … A big, hollow, steady drum beat begins to play. We’re looking head-on at the outside of a classic red barn somewhere in the rural countryside. Cut to … a close-up of a garden hose duct-taped on one end to a car’s muffler. Jump cut to … a side-view of the car. We see the hose has been inserted inside the car’s window and sealed with more shiny silver tape. The steady beat of the drum continues. Inside the car are three men: sullen, depressed … ready to die. The man in the driver’s seat attempts to start the car. It won’t start. The drumming stops.

Kill the Engine is a twisted little buddy film about three men who attempt to commit suicide through carbon monoxide poisoning. The car, or perhaps some universal intelligence would have it otherwise. The engine will not start and the trio are therefore unable to finish their plan to take that long road trip in the sky. This turn of events inspires them to work together to fix the car so that they can finish their final group project. The relationship between the three is both ridiculous and charming. It is apparent that they have experienced a lot of life together.

There are some laugh out loud moments in the dialogue conjured by “The Minor Prophets”, Gil Damon, Steve Kuzmick, and David Amadio. The trio are 100% believable as long-time friends who have given up on life and want to end it all in the same way they lived it, together. Their true friendship shines through and is part of what makes their interactions so entertaining. Damon and Kuzmick play the typical buddy film duo who are like a couple that has been married since high school, while Amadio cracks one-liners that make him the “nagging parent”.

Director, Derek Frey has a lot of experience with stories that are bent. He has “helmed Tim Burton Productions since 2001”, and more recently produced “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for Twentieth Century Fox and Big Eyes for The Weinstein Company.” The influence of this Dark Comedy style of filmmaking shows in Frey’s short film through the positioning of the characters within the frame and the angle of the camera. In the shot above, Frey has the camera angled up and the characters framed in a tight close-up, giving the impression that not only is the trio looking at the engine, they are being observed. Maybe the engine not starting wasn’t just a case of bad timing. Maybe there is a lesson here to learn.

The comedy in “Kill the Engine” lies in the relationship between these three misfortunate souls, who consequently are not so misfortunate after-all. The theme of depression and suicide is no laughing matter. Yet, the response to laughing at things that make us uncomfortable or scare us is not unusual. University studies have led psychologists to agree that “having an opposite reaction to an emotional situation helps to regulate emotional responses”.  Derek Frey’s, Kill the Engine elicits this response and by placing three lifelong friends in the situation together, he leaves us feeling that connection to others is the ultimate answer.

 

Helen Wheels is an independent filmmaker, freelance writer, and visual artist. She has produced, directed, worked as a set designer and scenic painter, and has been an assistant director on dozens of films. Wheels graduated from Shoreline College with an AAAS in Digital Film Production and is continuing toward her MFA in New Media Communications.  Known for her eye to detail and advanced research skills, Wheels is currently researching historical events for her latest script and is in the process of developing her online writing business.