Low budget zombie flicks are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Zombies have hit the mainstream and don’t seem to be going anywhere. Just to be clear, I’m not complaining. I have nothing but love for the undead brain eaters and honestly hope for more. As with any boom in trends there is a flood in the market. The downside to this being the sorting through the crap to find the gold. Lucky for you (the reader) I have nothing better to do with my life than sort through said crap. It’s movies like Jeremy Gardner’s The Battery that makes all that sorting worth it.
Ben ( Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronhiem) are former baseball players who form the battery ( a sports term used to describe the relationship between the catcher and the pitcher). Not exactly friends, but acquaintances who happened to be next to each other when the world went to hell. Together they roam the New England country side in attempt to stay alive. No real destination, just two guys trying to survive the zombie apocalypse, as well as each other.
The basic plot of The Battery is like every survival horror flick out there. It’s when you dig a little deeper that you see the true brilliance in Gardner’s film making His choice of long static shots adds rawness and a sense of realism. Which is only enhanced by a musical score that is almost a character of its own. Music is not only adding depth to the scenes, but Mickey’s way of escaping the world around him. The undead are stalking the earth and Mickey yearns for a place that resembles what was lost. This yearning is quickly turned into borderline obsession when Micky receives a radio transmission from a seemingly safe and organized group of survivors called “The Orchard.” Quickly, Mickey and Ben are denied access to the safe haven and this is when we really learn just what Mickey really is after. He’s tired of wandering and has struggles with the lack of female companionship . Mickey on the other hand refuses to stay put for fear of being trapped. It’s this conflict that is the focal point of the entire film. Zombies are just kindle for the story to get cooking.
Ben and Mickey’s relationship is a hard one to pin down. At first, it feels almost like a big brother/ little brother dynamic, but you quickly learn the relationship was born more out of necessity than true friendship. Mickey refuses to kill the undead and this chore is upheld by Ben. This also causes a constant strain on the relationship and leads to one of the most dramatic scenes in the movie. When an entire film spends most of the running time with only two characters it’s up to the actors to get it done. For the most part these two do just that. Gardner (who also wrote and directed) plays Ben with a firm and assured grasp on the situation at hand (not to mention he rocks one of the greatest beards captured on film). He has a laid back approach towards the walking dead and it plays well against Cronhiem’s uptight hopelessness. Gardner is at his best when he’s slinging insults at Cronhiem. It feels natural, like how any of us would poke at friend.
With some descent acting, an outstanding musical score, and a hell of a story, Gardner has made a zombie flick worth repeated viewings. He also proves you don’t need a big budget to make one of the best dramatic horror films in recent years.