Review: The Battery (Fantasia)

The Battery (Fantasia)
7 10

PLOT: Two middling baseball players, Mickey (Adam Cronheim) and Ben (Jeremy Gardner) find themselves in the middle of a full-blown zombie apocalypse. They hide out in the forests and back roads of New England, trying to scrape by and avoid the occasional zombie (not that they would ever call it that), while trying not to drive each other crazy.

REVIEW: THE BATTERY by writer-director-co-star Jeremy Gardner, is a unique, micro-budget addition to the ever-popular zombie horror genre. This is pretty much the anti-WALKING DEAD, with Mickey and Adam being two regular schmoes, who are really no more than casual acquaintances, but find themselves permanently thrown together when they come back from a baseball trip to discover civilization’s been all but wiped out. Neither are particularly heroic, although Ben (director-writer Gardner), a slacker who looks like Zach Galifianakis, is surprisingly able to adjust to this new reality pretty easily. Unlike Mickey, he has some basic survival skills, in that he can shoot and fish, and knows to conserve their resources. By comparison, Mickey (Cronheim- who also co-produced) spends all of his time listening to his discman (rather convenient to have something around that runs on batteries- hence the title) and brooding over his loneliness.

In many ways, THE BATTERY isn’t unlike the recent David Gordon Green movie PRINCE AVALANCHE, with us spending pretty much the entire running time watching these two guys that can barely stand each other being driven together by circumstance. All the while their increasingly fraught relationship plays out against a serene natural backdrop. Certainly, THE BATTERY is- shall we say- leisurely paced, but that’s the style the film is going for (with the Fantasia program aptly comparing it to films by Kelly Reichardt).

The narrative is episodic, but again, it fits the vibe of the film perfectly. After a while, this almost started to feel like a micro-budget zombie variation on EASY RIDER, with lots of scenery set to a (really good) indie soundtrack, while our two heroes gradually start to warm to each other. Some episodes are better than others. One sequence where the affection starved Mickey finds himself trapped in their Volvo station wagon by a female zombie, and promptly starts to masturbate when her undead breasts start rubbing against the window, feels a tad moronic. However, that’s a rare misstep for what proves to be a surprisingly mature film, with a sequence midway through where Mickey is held at gunpoint by a panicked fellow survivor being surprisingly tense. There are also some clever pokes at the inanity of their situation, with them overhearing a walkie-talkie conversation where two survivors discuss trying to find a copy of TREMORS at the local video-store, as after rigging a way to actually watch movies, someone has decided that the first movie they need to see MUST have Kevin Bacon fighting giant worms.

The best part of THE BATTERY is the final half-hour or so, where our two heroes find themselves trapped in their Volvo while a pack of zombies press against the car, hoping that they’ll come out to be devoured. The sound design here is amazing, and the increasing desperation of their predicament plays out beautifully, leading up to an affecting, and unpredictable ending.

While the (deserved) success of THE WALKING DEAD has left us with an overabundance of zombie fiction, THE BATTERY is a unique (even arty) take on the genre. Moreover, it also proves that despite having a budget in the four figures, if you’re creative there’s no reason that you can’t make a perfectly decent, occasionally great film. If you come across this on VOD and are feeling like something a little different, I highly recommend it.



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