Friday, 13 June 2014
Review: THE BATTERY
Just when you thought it was safe to come back to the DVD shelf, another zombie apocalypse film lumbers towards the shelves. But don't despair, dear reader! The Battery is, in fact, that rare breed which takes a well-worn premise and attempts to do something new.
Ben (writer/director Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim) used to play in a baseball team together, but since the world has been ravished by a zombie outbreak, they have been on the road together. After staying three months in a house, escaping when it became overrun by the undead, they have spent every night sleeping where ever they can: rooftops, trees, cars, any place they might not be eaten. Ben, the stronger of the pair, wields his bat to see off any attack, while Mickey is a little more sensitive and can't bring himself to fight back, choosing instead to block his senses with music, wearing headphones almost all the time. After they find some walkie-talkies and stumble upon a transmission between two strangers who appear to have a safe haven, Mickey becomes obsessed with finding them. This is despite being told by both man and woman on the other end of the line that they would not be welcome. This causes even more friction between the mismatched pair, and could be their downfall.
The Battery (also known as Ben & Mickey vs. the Dead, making it sound more like a comedy) is that rare breed of film in which not much actually happens, but is engrossing and entertaining nonetheless. Aside from the occasional zombie attack, the majority of the film is made up of the men bickering and ruminating on what might be happening outside of the rural New England countryside they are roaming. While it's not a comedy, there's still some humour to be had along the way, often coming from the pair's differences, and, in one particularly brilliant scene, when the sexually frustrated Mickey is under siege from a young female zombie. Thrusting her body (think Cool Hand Luke) against the car window, he can't resist taking matters into hand and having a dirty rummage.
The film is most like The Walking Dead in its more talky parts, but that's not altogether a bad thing. Gardner, as both director and actor, has made a brave choice in focusing on the realism of 'just getting on with things' while everything else has gone to pot. There are long scenes where nothing happens, the characters contemplating, or just talking, filmed boldly in long, static, takes. The finale particularly shows great ingenuity. When working with such a low budget (apparently $6000), he makes no attempt to over stretch and in doing so the finish product is incredibly moving; claustrophobic yet full of tension. The real evil to be wary of, as is always the case, is not those who want to eat us, but our fellow man.
It's ambitious, but it works. It won't be a mainstream pleaser - like the slower episodes of the TV series, the pace will put off many, but those who get it will savour it. A cult classic for future generations.
9 out of 10