Battery, The (2012) d. Gardner, Jeremy (USA)
Every so often I encounter an independent venture that makes me want to stand up and cheer. And then there are the ones that make me want to devote myself entirely to making sure everyone else sees it.
Writer/star Gardner’s directorial debut is one of those films.
Forget the zombie trappings. Forget that it was made for $6K. Forget that it contains no major stars or studio backing or that you've never heard of it before now. Just watch and revel in the breathtaking creativity, intelligence, resilience and filmmaking savvy on display. The Battery is this year’s must-see horror effort, providing as much offscreen inspiration as it does onscreen entertainment. Go. Find. Watch. NOW. (streaming link available at the bottom of the page)
Ben (Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim) are two former professional baseball players (minor league, I’m guessing) who are surviving the eponymous zombie outbreak by existing on the outskirts of New England society. They stay off the main roads and never sleep indoors. They fish and hunt and gather for food. But in spite of their common cause, these two weary travelers couldn’t be less alike. Though teammates, the two were never “friends” before the world fell apart; they stick together now more out of habit and because companion choices are, well, limited.
Ben is a slovenly, bearded, common and practical sort whereas Mickey is sensitive and lonely, taking sonic refuge in his ever-present CD player and headphones to retain a sense of normalcy. This odd couple drifts across the countryside, occasionally dealing with the undead but more often simply passing the time with conversation about what was, what is, and where their next destination will be (which, since Ben never believes in staying anywhere more than a day, is a constant).
The practice of independent horror filmmakers taking to the woods is nothing new – fewer permits required and production values automatically boosted – but thanks to Gardner’s insightful observations about human interaction, what goes spoken and unspoken between our two main characters provides much more food for thought than the average undead fare.
From a completely removed critical viewpoint, all we’re really looking at is two guys wandering through various isolated locales. But within the context of the story, this isolation speaks to the chasm between individuals and society as a whole.
Ben and Mick’s day to day minutiae of finding new games to keep themselves occupied or cracking open the latest canned goods from the last scavenger raid feels remarkably organic. The brainless thrills are few and far between; the zombies kept to the margins here, more atmosphere than antagonists. Not to say they don’t pose a threat, and the casual approach affords us a different strain of terror with its own distinctive payoff.
Ryan Winford’s original score provides a terrific moody bed within to couch the haunting or benign visuals, punctuated by a blend of evocative songs piped through Mickey’s headphones. In the same manner, Gardner utilizes an instinctive sense for sustaining an image or shot, with co-editors Alicia Stella and Michael Katzman embracing the non-ADD aesthetic.
There’s an audacious 11-minute sequence inside an enclosed area that had me on pins and needles, wondering equally when Gardner would cut and how the dramatic action depicted would play out. It’s an astonishing moment, delivering more impact than a dozen Hollywood flutter-cut action sequences.
The Battery is currently available for download from the filmmakers themselves at http://watch.thebatterymovie.com/. It may be the most satisfying $7 you’ll spend this year.
EDIT: It was recently announced that Toronto’s Raven Banner (Hatchet III, The Frankenstein Theory) has acquired the international distribution rights for Battery. As a result, a theatrical run – however well deserved – may not be in the cards.
Visit http://ravenbannerentertainment.com/new_site/ for more info or, more importantly, to request the film to play in your city.
--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine