Whilst the zombie sub-genre got a big box office this year courtesy of WWZ, the indie zombie apocalypse films quietly float by without much noise, which is disappointing because some of them are really good, such is the case with the baseball tinged road movie The Battery.
You get absolutely no story as to how the zombies came to be, no timeline, nothing – you are thrown straight into a never-ending road trip with Ben (Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim), two guys thrown together due to the circumstances. They played on the same baseball team but never really hung out, so as the road trip continues we learn more about the two and how they are dealing with the situation. Ben prefers to be the move constantly living a nomadic existence whilst Mickey hasn’t really come to terms with things yet and is almost always listening to his portable Discman, no doubt as a way to not accept what he sees around him. When the pair come across a radio message from what seems to be a protected community Mickey is determined to find them even though he has been told he is not welcome and not to contact them again.
Writer and director Jeremy Gardner (pulling triple duty as lead actor as well) keeps the proceedings fairly low key – obviously working on a budget which was only $6,000 dollars – so some of the shots are pretty ingenious as way to get around the budget shortfall (this is not to say that the film doesn’t look great because it does). Making clever use of locations Gardner confines us with his two lead characters, sometimes for far too long – the third act could do with about 10-15 mins cut from it – and keeps the under the surface tension between them both ever present. Gardner manages to work in some very funny dialogue and also a masturbation scene… the best way to describe it would be that it is a Midnight Express homage…
The acting is decent enough but Gardner and Cronheim give it their all and work up a pretty decent chemistry, even when no words are being spoken. Mickey leaves the zombie killing up to Ben which is a source of friction but it is the scenes in which Mickey and Ben play catch and basically try to bring a little normalcy to their world which work the best, which comes as no surprise as The Battery is mainly a character driven drama…it just happens to have zombies. I think this why The Battery works so well, it is not a gut munching gore classic and it takes a different tack in telling its story, yes the film wanders and meanders much like the characters do, they have nowhere to go in particular but just keep moving but as always, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the trip.
The Battery is a very good film involving a very familiar story that you have seen a lot of times but it seems fresh here, simply by concentrating on characters as opposed to the eating of brains. Not a perfect film but any means and some of the longer cut scenes really wear thin but The Battery is one of the best zombie flicks in recent years.
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