Jeremy Gardner’s slow burn horror The Battery has earned crowds of cheers reaching back to its early film festival days from genre movie goers. Even though I wasn’t sold on this flabby flick, that’s great news for the filmmaker. It’s a zombie movie that hardly shows you any of the walking dead. That’s a tough sell!
You see limited amounts of zombies because Gardner wants to set his sights more on the dynamic between his two abandoned leads. Ben and Mickey (played by Gardner and Adam Cronheim) are two former baseball players who have a hard time meshing with each other. They run out each other’s patience and have mannerisms that act as pet peeves to one another.
However, as much as they are getting fed up with their company, they realize they need each other for survival. They can usually find each other on the same wavelength during a game of catch or scavenging through this new post-apocalyptic life.
The chemistry between the leads is passable, but Gardner and Cronheim lack a strong actor’s presence and are usually struggling to make their dialogue sound convincingly organic. Gardner wrote the minimalist script, which has the tendency to sound like a post-Pulp Fiction Tarantino copycat during those “snappy” conversations.
Nonetheless, the viewer really gets the feeling that these two are alone. Countless scenes feature Ben and Mickey observing vapid landscapes. The film gives off a claustrophobic aura without feeling closed-in. During those games of catch, the ball hits the other’s glove with a hollow thud that carries for miles. Atmospheric wise, this tone of genuine discomforting vacancy helps carry the film.
The Battery faces fleeting but interesting circumstances as the zombie takeover shows how the male psyche is affected. One scene featuring an isolated Mickey locked in a car and a female zombie trying to break in may garner awkward laughs, but hopefully not. It’s actually a profound statement about sexual aggression and coming to terms with social desperation.
It’s these quick bursts of thoughtfulness that remind viewers of how great The Battery could be. Unfortunately, the heart of the film wants to make a generic zombie flick. Like Ben and Mickey’s friendship, the combination of ponderous psychology and average horror conventions don’t bode well. And, Gardner is far too generous with how many long silences he gives himself and his actors to portray inner feelings.
The Battery is also a film that will happily let its music do most of the talking instead of gearing more focus towards character and story development. The film isn’t light on montages that dawdle, and the excessive use of songs has me wondering if the film’s main goal is to feature as many obscure bands as possible.
I’m happy for Jeremy Gardner’s success and hopefully this film opens doors that allow him to make a better film down the road. I can see what Garner was trying to do with The Battery, but I can see more clearly how many times the budding filmmaker strikes out.