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Running Time: 10:20 minutes

Three broken men decide to kill themselves by carbon monoxide poisoning, but the group suicide is foiled when the vehicle of their demise fails to start.

GENRE: Dramedy

TAGLINE: No Idling

Starring Gil Damon, Steve Kuzmick, and David Amadio
Directed by Derek Frey
Written by The Minor Prophets
Cinematography by Derek Frey
Music Composed & Performed by Matt Amadio
Editing by Derek Frey
Key Makeup Artist: Loren McCarthy
First Assistant Director: Brian Edward Smith
Filmed on location in Chester County, Pennsylvania
Special Thanks: Holly Kempf Keller, Valery Richardson, Leah Gallo, Brian E. Smith, Milkboy the Studio

by Helen Wheels, Cult Critic Film Magazine

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 and Big Eyes. 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 one shot, 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.

Largo Film Awards
Kill The Engine

It takes a very clever writer and director to take a topic that is so negative and emotional such as suicide, group suicide no less, and turn it into a comedy sketch that still has heart and meaning. Fortunately, in this case that’s exactly what happened.

The film begins with three guys trying to start a car and through the conversation and sub textual inferences we make, it becomes clear they are trying to gas themselves. From the off the three main characters have a great rapport which helps the audience connect with them. They aren’t your typical suicidal characters which makes them more human, they have identity.

The fact that they can’t get the car to start is what brings in the humor but it is subtle and done well. The overlaying joke is the fact they are trying to breathe life into a car (literally at one point) that is eventually meant to kill them. It’s that sort of ironic dark humor that works really well here.

The script is clever, both in its subtle use of dialogue which isn’t over used or too expositional, and in the structure of the narrative. It’s simple yet clever and effective. The audience are given just enough to get in on the jokes, and just enough physical comedy that it doesn’t turn slapstick. The ending works particularly well. This suicide attempt has actually brought these guys together and the fact that they accomplish their goal leaves them elated, until they realize what it ultimately means. The end. But we never see what they choose to do. The hose pipe in the car window offers a suggestion but it isn’t conclusive, and it’s that which leaves the audience questioning and talking. That is what effective film does, it stays with the audience.

An excellently constructed short film that utilizes its dark comedy perfectly. With strong performances and a well-written script, this is definitely one to watch

Feel The Reel International Film Festival
When it was first published in 1996, Andrey Kurkov’s "A Matter of Death and Life" was a game changer in the novelistic world; the story of Tolya, a man living a hard life in post-soviet Ukraine who is trying to make the most out of his existence. And when we say the most we mean an impeccable and (why not?) artistic death. Tolya hires a hitman to assassinate him in a café in order to make his death spectacular. And the situation is almost the same here in Derek Frey’s short movie ‘Kill The Engine’. Three friends are trying to kill themselves by carbon monoxide poisoning, but their plan falls apart when the engine of the car they are using refuses to start. What can they do next? Well, the engine needs a fix-up, and this is exactly what they will do… more or less!

We must admit it has been a while since we’ve had such a good and funny comedy short in our festival, and 'Kill The Engine' made the entire wait worthwhile. The three main characters are amazingly funny even though the main theme is not. The dialogue is insane you literally cannot watch this short without bursting into laughter. The cinematography is really neat, having at the same time some Wes Anderson influences that are easy to spot, giving this short great cinematic effect.

The ending of Derek Frey's film is priceless – after trying multiple possibilities to get the engine running again, the three men work it out and succeed. The engine is purring like a cat, the men are hugging each other and are insanely happy… but they seem to have forgotten something! If Jerome K. Jerome lived today and watched this movie he would be jealous. This type of comedic discourse and narrative is always a good sign that this world is going places.

The Farsighted Blog
by Garrett Smith (excerpt)

“…the short of the day was the final short in the block, Derek Frey‘s Kill the Engine, which basically asks the question “What if the Three Stooges tried to kill themselves via exhaust inhalation?” This was absolutely hilarious, featured a great cast, and in just 10 minutes developed some really great characters. I had a ball with this one, and want to point out that this is from the same filmmaker as God Came ‘Round, which I distinctly did not like, and just goes to show that you should never write an artist off, even if you don’t connect with all their work. Man was this movie funny, I absolutely loved it.”

kill the engine poster