“You need to wake up and realize that this is how it is out here now. Nobody is gonna flip the switch back on.”
Yeah, yeah: zombie movies are over, zombies are the new vampires (thankfully still sparkle-free), zombies are as over and as overexposed as U2 and you wish they’d just die already. Tough luck for you. The Battery proves there’s still some buzzing brain activity in the ubiquitous corpse-children of Romero yet. Would you believe the production totaled a scant six grand and it was shot in just fifteen days?
Though The Battery is firmly in the lurching, moaning zombieverse so well established in Night of the Living Dead, so well plumbed since in countless films, videogames, and television shows, it tells a decidedly more intimate, relatable tale. Courtesy of Wikipedia for the baseball ignorant: “in baseball, the term battery refers collectively to the pitcher and the catcher, who may also be called batterymen or batterymates of one another.” Our two players, catcher Ben and “one-pitch bitch” pitcher Mickey, are forced to rely on each other in a post-apocalyptic world. Folksy hipster-bearded Ben (writer-director Jeremy Gardner) and taciturn Mickey (Adam Cronheim) are just two dudes who happened to play on the same baseball team but didn’t hang in the same circles who simply want to survive. Well, Ben does, anyway; it’s not clear at first if Mickey has what it takes. We’re firmly in buddy flick territory here, with our two opposites – the practical wildman Ben and the distant dreaming romantic Mickey – travelling, arguing, surviving, and yes, growing ever closer through a series of dramatic episodes. Ben wants Mickey to stop spending all his time in a headphone la-la land and confront the reality of the situation both literally (here, killing a zombie is a kind of virginal rite of passage that to Mickey would be a loss of innocence and a tear in his calculated safety-blanket view of reality) and figuratively. Mickey just wants to be left alone and be given the chance spend a night in a real bed every now and again like he used to.
Despite the film being loosely plotted and meandering, it’s never dull. Adam Cronheim and Jeremy Gardner are great on screen, with Gardner’s life-loving force of nature Ben particularly enjoyable to watch – good news, as outside of the zombies, they’re very nearly the only speaking characters in the film. It’s a testament to their charisma and writer-director Gardner’s deft hand that what is essentially an episodic journey of two men in an empty land never becomes tiring – there’s a number of remarkable scenes in The Battery that are comedic, horrifying, and often, both. Christian Stella’s cinematography is stunning, another remarkable feat for such low budget movie, and the indie soundtrack is a delight.
The Battery is a thoughtful, character-focused feature that happens to involve zombies from time to time. It’s hypnotic, often hilarious, horrifying, and touching. Forget the low-budget qualifier, this is filmmaking done right. Don’t let the zombies keep you away.