What’s it About?
The personalities of two former baseball players clash as they traverse the rural back roads of a post-plague New England teeming with the undead.
“The Battery” (Ben and Mickey vs The Dead)
Directed by Jeremy Gardner
8 out of 10
Writer and Director Jeremy Gardner (The Bags, The Robert Cake) serves up a neat little zombie/survivor horror tale named “The Battery.” I could easily say it is indeed a very dramatic effort as well. It is a low budget indie film that is refreshing in it’s approach and perspective to the aftermath of a realized zombie apocalypse. Filled with smart and natural exchanges along with some very appealing and delicate imagery, Gardner’s flick is worthy of a watch, indeed.
Gardner’s world is much more about the 2 men that inhabit the film much like Kirkman’s universe is about the survivors. But the similarities end there. It is about the progression of the dynamics and the friendship (or lack thereof) of Ben, played by Gardner and his companion, Mickey, played by Adam Cronheim, who also produced. Both are ex-baseball players, from Pittsfield, that are traveling the rural countryside of New England in a sort of distorted reality.
Neither of them seem like they are afraid or scared of what has happened around them and they appear to be like two random travelers (Or “Hunter Gatherers” like Mickey exclaims) hiking, fishing and resting in even more remote and desolate backwood places. What Gardner does really well here is show off the incredibly picturesque landscapes with warm photography, by Christian Stella, and also puts us into the everyday and mundane routines of Ben and Mickey. They walk, fish, brush their teeths, observe insects, listen to CD walkman’s and pat livestock. They even measure up abandoned vehicles. Once the jokey and droll interchanges and dialog starts off, “The Battery” becomes a very different sort of of zombie flick.
Gardner smartly focuses on the tiny bits of what is left behind and things that we take for granted. What the movie really is about is how Ben and Mickey see eachother. They argue, sometimes with zombies approaching, they bicker and sometimes they insult one another. They totally sound like 2 young dudes that are stuck with eachother. It seems that Mickey yearns for a more stable environment like staying within the saftey of a house, where Ben feels that being stuck in a house is a deathtrap. Each man is damaged in their own way and Gardner shows us how they individually deal with it. The CD walkman and the constant use of it, along with the music, strikes an interesting and deep chord throughout the movie.
“The Battery” has very little zombie action to speak of (it isn’t very gory either) and when there is some, it is slow, eerie and sometimes intangible. One zombie moment, though, is quite pornographic, funny and gory. Cronheim and Gardner sell it pretty good here and the chemistry is real. You really begin to like the fellas and even care for them. One believes that the strained friendship is very real even though they never even see eye to eye on anything. Among the already impressive imagery and camerawork (which blessedly does not involve POV or any shaky-cam shit) is the cool music by Ryan Winford and various bands performing cool indie alternative music that Gardner commisoned. It’s fits the mood and tone of the movie very well while remaining diverse.
Once in Connecticut, after hearing others on an open frequency (while testing out walkie talkies), Mickey longs for other companion-ship besides Ben. Gardner pushes the limits of the relationship of the two that is already frought with tension and Mickey further continues to seek out a mysterious but sympathetic woman on the other side of the walkie talkie. Meanwhile, Gardner supplies more insight with a dance sequence from Ben that is equally humorous and alarming.
But the last act of the movie is where “The Battery” shows us it’s brawn. The performances and the stakes are amped up after Mickey is forced to do something he never had to do before. During another game of catch (they are known as the “battery-men,” the catcher and pitcher duo) something changes but Gardner inserts more scenes of normalcy to level things off. It is the long extended final sequence that really impressed me with it’s unique approach and revealing context. It is just down right creepy and Romero-esque and remains real and daring. Some scenes can go on a bit too long and the pacing gets a bit lost but it is nothing to really gripe about. Gardner’s “The Battery” defies the conventions and is offbeat and a welcome entry in the genre. It’s part road trip movie and definitely all drama.
The real horror here is how we deal with the breakdown of society more than worrying about the zombies themselves. It isn’t zombie romanticism nor is it a flat out balls to the walls flesh eating horror flick. After sitting through the latest season of “The Walking Dead” and even “World War Z,” “The Battery” is a very solid and picturesque movie to be thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated. It has great tension, natural dialog, vivid exchanges and never dumbs down while never trying to capalize on bigger budgeted efforts. It is even raw in places and the last act and ending will leave your jaw on the floor for it’s daring ingenuity. Highly recommended, gang. Enjoy!
Vic’s Note: There is an awesome “Jaws” reference in this movie that you fans out there will really appreciate!