I wish more zombie movies could be like Jeremy Gardner’s “The Battery.” The problem with most modern zombie films is that the writers forget that the humans should be the centerpiece of the film, and not the zombies. Director Jeremy Gardner’s “The Battery” is the prime example of how to handle this kind of genre entertainment with a low budget. Rather than flood the screen with zombies, the monsters are used sparingly and for great moments of terror and memorable scenes, while Gardner focuses primarily on character, building two complex and unique people we can love and hate, in many ways.
Director Gardner and producer Adam Cranheim play Ben and Mickey, two former baseball players who huddled together when the zombie apocalypse brought down society. After waiting out the end of the world, they took to the wooded outback of Connecticut to avoid the masses of zombies in the city, and have lived out in the wilderness for years, relying on their wits and improvising whenever faced with a walker. Gardner touches upon elements of the end of the world that very few zombie movies do. What would happen to you if you were forced to rely on a person you vaguely knew before the world ended? How would you survive? What would you do to pass the time and keep from going stir crazy?
How could you face the possibility that you and your partner would likely be the only people on the face of the Earth? “The Battery” spends the first hour on the journeys of Ben and Mickey, as they roam the country, looking for food and shelter, and bickering about life among the walking dead. Ben is a gruff survivalist who has to live with the dead all around him, as Mickey has yet to come to grips with the fact that society is over, as he retreats to his CD player day in and day out, listening to music, and avoiding the harsh environment around him. The stars give fantastic performances, as these men who were not all that close when the chaos started and really have to settle for one another, if they hope to live to see old age.
For the first hour, “The Battery” is similar to Gus Van Sant’s “Gerry” in many regards, as the characters walk around, look through various abandoned environments, discuss monotonous elements of survival like cars, and past memories, and can only bond through their love for baseball. The film is a very low budget film, but Gardner’s eye catching direction, and his wide implementing of environments make the film impossible to distinguish from a film in the millions range. If you’re in the market for a fast paced shoot em up with the walking dead, look elsewhere. Gardner’s film is a more thoughtful and beautifully paced horror drama about two men who find living with one another becoming even more difficult with every passing day, but have no choice but to settle.
Gardner uses the low budget to paint more thoughtful and disturbing moments involving living in a zombie ridden world, including Mickey’s odd arousal toward a busty zombie lurking outside their car, and Ben’s shocking method for helping Mickey to realize the harsh reality he’s in. Though most of the film is reliant on quiet dread, the final half hour manages to offer a brutal and shocking finale, as Ben and Mickey learn of a potential society in the wilderness that may have outlasted the zombie menace. Mickey becomes desperate to find the survivors, while Ben insists it’s pointless and dangerous to look for them, leading in to a finale that’s original and incredibly gut wrenching when the dust settles. Jeremy Gardner’s zombie horror drama is a masterpiece. In a year where tame zombie fare was the soup du jour, Gardner gladly restores dignity to the sub-genre.