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As those enticed by the sport of baseball will know well, a “battery” is the two person team of the pitcher and catcher, also known as batterymen or batterymates and so to is the source of the relationship between Ben and Mickey, two wandering souls in a world consumed by the zombie apocalypse. But the title of this immensely intriguing low budget project shares a duel meaning as Mickey’s collection of batteries he keeps in his travel pack holds the power of denial, allowing his Discman and a bundle of CD’s to shut out the world. All his companion keeps a checklist of the number of undead he offs with his bat or revolver. This is but one of the intriguing dynamics present in The Battery, a very deliberately paced but ultimately very satisfying approach to the genre.
In all honesty calling The Battery a zombie film at all would be a misnomer as this time around the stumbling monsters are relegated to bloody window dressing with the film instead focussing on the relationship (and unlikely bond) these two very different people share. Ben is brash, aggressive, unnecessarily assertive and very frank, whereas Mickey is a meek romantic, the type who upon hearing a woman’s voice over a walkie talkie immediately dreams of the potential for some sort of a far fetched relationship. Despite appearances, these two need one another – Ben relying on Mickey to keep him sane and Mickey on his caveman like partner to protect him and ultimately keep him in the moment.
I know for a fact however that there will be people who despise The Battery, and not because of the genre to which it belongs. This is a very slowly paced film and also one that fills a good portion of its running time with no dialogue scenes of the two traversing the sun soaked New England countryside. Other extended sequences simply fixate on Mickey listening to his music, often playing entire songs without anything else but a static shot of the actor’s face. “Maddening” (and certainly “boring”) will be used by some but for me, despite some similar issues, The Battery had a transfixing quality and a strong, emotionally satisfying payoff.
The pitfalls of any micro budget ($6,000) flick remain, from having to skimp on makeup effects (which is still quite respectable actually) gore, the best props, ability to shoot scenes multiple times, etc all remain and with first time director-writer-star Jeremy Gardner at the helm, hiccups were to be expected. He and co-star Adam Cronheim’s acting chops dip from time to time though they do better than most considering the circumstances. What I enjoyed most about Gardner’s script was its blunt depiction of the way two twenty-something dudes would talk, swinging between simply silence and to-the-point sarcastic banter. This is a shoot the shit writing style and it works more often than not.
As the finale rolls around we find our leads trapped in their car, without keys and a horde of the undead surrounding them and rocking the vehicle without fatigue. It starts out very comedically but slowly loses that quality and becomes quite maddening, a feeling or protagonists certainly share. The very final (unbroken) shot was reportedly 17 minutes long originally but was then cut to 11. It’s a fantastic and effective ploy but one I think would have been even more searing if it hadn’t been preceded by so many other long takes. The third act as a whole is melancholy in its construction but also rousing and triumphant in a way and also offers a neat spin on the oft seen refuge camp, a la The Governor’s Woodbury in The Walking Dead.
In fact in spite of its budget The Battery employs a number of interesting approaches to the genre (if not every completely fleshed out) such as how to baptize the uninitiated into the art of zombie killing, how one might satisfy their “needs” in the situation and simply how two guys might actually react to the situation and where they (or at least one of them) might feel safe to sleep at night. Blended with the indie soundtrack (one that never goes into quirky hipster territory) strong editing and its unwavering approach and style, The Battery is a singularly unique take on the zombie phenomenon and one that is nothing close to something I would recommend to everyone.