“I hate waking up wondering if today is the day that a fucking walking dead person is going to eat my head…”
The Battery begins with a guy sat on a porch, listening to music through headphones, and looking like a normal guy living a normal day in a normal place, and immediately the film looks crisp, clear and self-assured. That’s something I want to point out, right away, here… The Battery looks fantastic and feels like the work of someone who knew, prior to shooting, exactly what he wanted to accomplish. That, in itself, was a good start.
Suddenly, this guy sitting on the porch, listening to music, isn’t living a normal day, and we find out when another man runs out of the house behind him, shooting a gun from the doorway he has just exited, and shouting “go, go, go” at our headphone-wearing friend. Yeah, the normal day just got abnormal, and the film has now begun.
The guy on the porch is Mickey, and the guy with the gun is Ben, two former baseball players who find themselves in a world inhabited by hordes of the living dead, and so they struggle across the rural back roads of New England, and their relationship is tested along the way. It’s a road movie, a buddy movie, a zombie movie, and a movie about people’s friendships being put through Hell due to the messed-up circumstances they find themselves in. Really, this is a horror drama, and a human one.
Ben, played by Jeremy Gardner (The Bags), is a bearded and snarky character, and is the more aggressive and provocative of the two. Gardner wrote and directed this too, pulling a triple-header and doing a marvellous job in each role. Mickey, played by Adam Cronheim, is the uptight, anxious and less aggressive of the two. This was Cronheim’s feature film debut, and he did a commendable job here. The two of them clash over their diversion of characters, with Ben being the more adaptable to the scenario, while Mickey longs for a time when things were like they used to be, struggling to come to terms with the new day that has dawned. They hear a radio transmission from what is claiming to be a safe community, and though it’s made clear that they are not welcome, Mickey relentlessly tries to find it, holding on to the hope that the world could get back to how it was before the zombie apocalypse.
The low budget of this film is never apparent. The chemistry between Gardner and Cronheim is spot-on, which makes the whole film feel that much better. The dialogue between the two, from the bickering, to the reminiscing, to the joking, to the contemplating, feels authentic, like they know each other, and I liked that. I was previously unfamiliar with Gardner, but after seeing this I will seek out his future work, because I was impressed with his acting, direction and writing here, with The Battery. Oh, and I should probably make mention to the zombies, shouldn’t I? Well, the walking dead don’t play a major part, in terms of characters, in the film, but rather offer an impending danger, a hovering terror that puts our characters on edge and gives them a reason to worry, a reason to fight, and in doing so pushes them apart and pulls them together at various times. The effects are well-done, rustic and realistic.
I thought the concept of two guys forced into traveling together, who fish together, hunt together, survive together and are falling apart together too. The idea that the most inane of things would eventually frustrate you about someone when you’re spending every moment with them in a stressful situation is one we can contemplate, and in turn, put ourselves into their shoes and ponder how we might react. I thought that Gardner did a great job of showing these things, and it made for a very interesting sort of zombie film. There is also plenty of originality in here too, something I was pleasantly surprised to see. A well-trodden genre, Gardner found a way to inject some fresh ideas into the film, and I appreciated that. One such scene saw sex-starved survivor, Ben, decide to “get his rocks off” to a female zombie who is pushing her bosom up against the car window in an attempt to get inside. This was funny and tragic in equal measure, and is something I haven’t seen before in a zombie flick. Very good stuff.
Featuring an acoustic-country-folk style soundtrack that fits in with the tone and the rural terrain of the film’s setting perfectly. The camera work is slick and modern, and the performances of the two leads are very good. It isn’t a flawless film, by any means, and has its problems, the most notable of which being that some of the scenes could have used a little extra cutting and editing, bringing them together and tying it up in a neater package, and the film would have flowed better had the editing process been a little stricter. Otherwise, I thought the film, especially when one considers the lack of experience with the performers and director, and the lack of a good-sized budget, was very enjoyable.
“…if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… it’s probably a fucking zombie…”
The Battery is available on DVD, in the UK, through Metrodome, now.