Directed By: Jeremy Gardner
Written By: Jeremy Gardner
Starring: Jeremy Gardner, Adam Cronheim, Niels Bolle, Larry Fessenden
UK Certification: 15
Running Time: 96 minutes
UK Release Date: 21st July 2014
You would think that the overpopulated zombie genre would dissuade a filmmaker from making a feature with the undead these days. Not Jeremy Gardner it seems, who raised his meagre $6,000 budget by borrowing $600 each off ten friends (who became investors) and heading into a sparsely populated part of New England. As well as being on directing duties, Gardner also wrote the script and featured in front of the camera as Ben, who along with his friend Mickey (Cronheim – who co-produced) cut a lonely path across a desolate America.
While it’s billed as a zombie movie, The Battery’s narrative plays more like a drama about the trials of friendship in adversity. The two lead characters are both former baseball players having also been teammates for a number of years, and while this cross-state trek initially sees the men work in tandem, before long the relationship becomes a little fractious. Mickey misses the comfort of his former lifestyle as he hangs on preciously to his headphones while playing music whenever he can. “They’ll get ya killed” muses Ben, who in contrast to Mickey has embraced this new hunter-gatherer existence. Their home is the back of a Volvo which travels New England as they look for survivors’, attempt to find food and engage in a little zombie orientated masturbatory activity.
The first scene of The Battery seems to perfectly encapsulate the success of the film in just a little over two minutes. We find Mickey, headphones on, seemingly at ease on the porch of a dilapidated house as he plays some music on his portable CD player. The batteries die, and in disgust he rips them out and throws them onto the ground before breaking open a new pack to continue his tunes. No dialogue is spoken for those couple of minutes and any drama or sense of impending doom seems far from his mind. In a split second though we here “GO, GO, GO!” as Ben runs from the house with his gun in hand firing shots at an unseen target. It’s a schizophrenic change in tempo, and one that demonstrates the ease at which The Battery flits with ease from daily mundaneness to apocalyptic doom.
The dynamic between these two leads is extraordinary, and while both of them have quite divisive attributes, neither character I found to be off-putting or unlikeable. They were balanced so well, and any negative actions were soon softened by them being such rounded and well-written individuals. Early on it reminded me of the mumblecore film Old Joy (2006) which I think perfectly captured with great subtlety the essence of a friendship that had no real future or depth. The Battery echoed this while also highlighting the necessity of these conflicting personalities working together in order to survive.
Everything about this film is to be applauded, from the killer soundtrack that punctuates the New England air to the lush photography of the seemingly desolate state. It defies belief that this film was made for $6,000 as its appearance easily supersedes many films with a budget one hundred times greater. Naturally the casual viewer may well be drawn to the blood-spattered artwork of the DVD cover as well as the universal acclaim that surrounds the movie and expect something a little more… generic. They’ll be disappointed, which is exactly why The Battery is so great. Gardner rips up every stale clichéd zombie riff that has bored us stupid for the last few years, and instead gives us a drama – with a little comedy – about two bickering friends in a zombie infested world. It’s perfect.
9 out of 10