One of the sparsest and most realistic feeling zombie films ever crafted, writer-director-star Jeremy Gardner’s American indie film The Battery puts a touching and poignantly gracious face on the standards of the perilous horror sub-genre.
A pair of minor league baseballers from Pittsfield, Masschusetts are making their ways across the backroads, smaller suburbs, and forests of New England several months after the zombie apocalypse, constantly moving to stay alive. Ben (Gardner) is the take charge member of the duo, trying to force his travelling partner to actually man up and help him kill the living dead constantly threatening them. Mickie (Adam Cronheim) is the eternal optimist, wanting to stay in one place to remember what life used to be like, and often losing himself in his headphones to tune out the world around him. They aren’t even really the best of friends, but they have enough of an affinity for one another to stick together. A wedge gets driven between the duo somewhat when they intercept a walkie talkie communication from an apparently self sustaining compound that orders them to stay away. Mickie is determined to find this place (and the girl on the other end of the radio), but Ben implores that they stick to their original plans.
There’s not a heck of a lot of bombast to the activities, which is refreshing because it makes the times when zombies do show up far more effective. It’s actually a pretty sad story, wonderfully conveyed through Gardner and Cronheim’s performances that dare to get deep inside the psychological motivations of each character separately to better inform their dynamic as the titular unit. As with most of the best zombie films, after a while the actual ghouls are only one of the problems the duo face, but again thanks to an economy of words and actions that give the film an elegiac quality it Gardner never overdoes it. It’s also better shot than any horror film in recent memory, and boasts an against type indie rock soundtrack that fits shockingly well.
It all builds up to a climax that’s pretty much equal to anything in Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, or All is Lost in terms of “pit of your stomach” levels of dread. That’s not hyperbole, but a very genuine compliment. It also builds to one of the best closing moments in any film I’ve seen this year, making me want to simultaneously cry and scream out “fuck yeah.”
People who dug the similarly stripped down thrills of Resolution at last year’s festival should be able to get behind this as much as zombie aficionados, who have been starved for something this good for a while. (Andrew Parker)
Saturday, October 19th, 9:30pm, Scotiabank Theatre