In ‘The Battery,” the personalities of two former baseball players clash as they travel the back roads of New England to avoid recently risen undead.
Generally, low budget zombie movies result in the same group of blood-spattered people running or staggering around, and their inept prey hiding or sprinting from one nondescript location to another. The crucial conversation missing for many of these pictures is forgotten during pre-production -- a decision to tailor the film to the budget so it does one thing well versus many things poorly. The creators of The Battery understood this and the result is a zombie movie that stands above the horde.
Ben (Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim) weren't friends before the apocalypse, but they've become partners out of necessity. In spite of being teammates, it's unlikely they would have spent much time together before the dead started rising. Now they're inseparable, day and night. Ben has had an easier time adjusting to the new world, honing his survival instincts with each encounter. Mickey, on the other hand, tunes the monstrosities out with a constant supply of batteries for his disc man.
The best zombie movies have been about the people rather than the separating of limbs and tearing of guts. This film uses the end of the world as a setting for its road trip movie. As the narrative progresses, details about the characters' history together is revealed -- though only anecdotally and never in full. But the one thing that can always bring them back together after their countless disagreements is a game of catch – even as America disintegrates around them, its past time lives on.
The budget restraints are nearly imperceptible because writer/director Gardner weaves such a captivating narrative. The only noticeable victim of their economy is the lack of a persistent presence of the undead in a key confinement scene. But they do well to hide even this minor shortcoming while remaining true to the story. Avoiding formerly populated areas also pre-emptively limits this issue.
The unusual soundtrack doesn't include the typical Hollywood horror fair of heavy rock or metal music. In a word, it’s haunting. Mainly infusing music into the film when it is present in the narrative, usually through Mickey's headphones, it adds to the atmosphere of the picture. Reminiscent of darker Blues tracks, the folk rock of Rock Plaza Central matches the mood of the film perfectly (and acts as a powerful ear worm).
This is one of the best zombie films to be made in quite some time, owing much to Gardner's grasp of the genre and his on-screen chemistry with Cronheim.
The Battery screened as a part of the 2013 Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
Director:Jeremy GardnerStarring:Jeremy Gardner, Adam Cronheim and Alana O'Brien