It’s rare that a film in which one person serves as director, writer, producer and star turns out to be very good – particularly in the horror genre. (Go ahead, try to name one!) Wearing so many hats often spreads the person too thin at the expensive of the production. The Battery, however, is an exception to the rule. First-time director Jeremy Gardner successfully handled all four duties and delivered a fine film.
Mickey (Adam Cronheim) and Ben (Gardner) were a couple of lowly baseball players from western Massachusetts when the zombie apocalypse began. (The title The Battery refers to the pitcher and catcher of a baseball team.) In the time since, they have been living as normal a life as possible under the circumstances. They travel through the woods, where there are less zombies, and partake in such time-honored pastimes as baseball and fishing. Ben is more level headed, handling the zombie killing, while Mickey is often lost in his headphones.
Their nomadic lifestyle has brought them to rural Connecticut. They get a pair of walkie-talkies, which happen to be on the same frequency as a pack of other survivors in the area. It’s the first new human interaction the guys have had in months, and Mickey becomes preoccupied with the idea of talking to them. The voices on the other end, however, make it clear that they are not interested in being found. Tensions raise between the friends, and real terror sets in when they become trapped in a car surrounded by the living dead.
The Battery is, by definition, a zombie movie, but it does not play out like one. Instead, it is a character-driven drama with elements of horror; not unlike some of the more dramatic episodes of The Walking Dead. Even as the characters venture into (previously) more-inhabited areas, the zombies are few and far between. They are merely a backdrop to the story of two friends struggling to survive against the odds.
Slow moving at 100 minutes, a leaner edit could have trimmed off about 10 minutes; there are several long takes and montages, especially in the first half, that fail to accomplish much. Thankfully, Gardner and Cronheim are talented enough – both individually and as a duo – to carry the picture.
Horror fans looking for tons of undead action may be disappointed, but The Battery is much more interesting and original than the average zombie movie – and it was made for a fraction of the budget (reportedly $6,000). With enough heart and stylish charm to please a Wes Anderson fan, it’s no surprise that The Battery is a festival favorite. The film will be available on DVD next year, but if you don’t want to wait, you can purchase it digitally for a mere $5, which goes directly to the filmmakers. Skip a coffee one day and use that money to support independent filmmaking and get a great movie in return.