REVIEW: THE BATTERY / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JEREMY GARDNER / SCREENPLAY: JEREMY GARDNER / STARRING: JEREMY GARDNER, ADAM CRONHEIM, NIELS BOLLE / RELEASE DATE: JULY 21ST
Shot for $6000 over 15 days, Jeremy Gardner’s The Battery is to the zombie sub-genre what Gareth Edwards’ Monsters is to alien invasion. Both films were dismissed by some as boring, but to say that is to miss the point entirely. The Battery is a study of character and country that happens to be set amidst an undead epidemic.
Given its budget and guerrilla -style approach, it’s little surprise that The Battery is informed more by indie cinema than straight-up horror. While there are certainly nods to the nasty, including zombie maestro George A. Romero’s early anarchic works, it’s more Jim Jarmusch than Lucio Fulci.
The CD Walkman not only provides comfort for Mickey (Cronheim), but also for the audience – after all the MP3 doesn’t exist physically and after a zombie outbreak there’d have to be a return to more basic technologies. The eponymous battery doesn’t simply refer to the two former baseball players (completed by Gardner’s grizzled Ben), but rather a symbol of humanity as it was.
Both the soundtrack and Ryan Winford’s score, made up of moody, evocative and uplifting Americana, help tell the story, set the tone and offer respite. The film, in part, is simply an ode to the therapeutic power of music.
There’s a lot in common with Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later with the characters’ singular goal and interaction with the normal, whether that be Mickey winning on a scratch card or Boyle’s motley crew ‘shopping’. The Battery defines the line between simply surviving and living in a radically changed world, especially in a funny and poignant scene where Mickey and Ben brush their teeth with salvaged toothpaste and brushes.
Baseball is the linchpin of the film, a thread of American culture running though the narrative, and indeed baseball is both a source of release and enjoyment and a mode of defence. It’s a way to explore the differences and similarities between the two characters, both compelling and easy to warm to, and by the end of the film, baseball is well and truly deconstructed.
It’s reminiscent of Ben Wheatley’s work, especially his 2012 caravan-holiday-from-hell, Sightseers. One of the things the road movie does best is making the landscape a character and not just a set-piece. The locations are reminiscent of True Detective and Winter’s Bone in exploiting the Gothic sublime of rural America. Christian Stella’s cinematography is especially effective and the exterior shots are all pretty much faultless, though some of the interior sequences are grainier and amateurish.
Gardner has written a decent script that sets a steady pace. Characterisation never feels forced, though a lot of Ben and Mickey’s interaction was ad-libbed. It really gets to the heart of disassociation, tackling men away from women in a bold way. It’s an exploration of American life and values through zombies; like Romero, the zombie is a tool to subvert, satirise and explore.
The Battery is one of the most refreshing and candid zombie films to come along in a good while. It has oodles of charm, which is more than can be said for a lot of living dead flicks. Just don’t go looking for a straight-up zombie film; you won’t find one. Instead you’ll find something better; something existential, engaging and moving.