Genre: Drama, Horror
Directed by: Jeremy Gardner
Starring: Jeremy Gardner, Adam Cronheim, Niels Bolle, Alana O’Brien
The phrase, ‘subverts the genre’ is one that is well worn in its use regarding filmmaking. Any movie, of any genre, that switches things up slightly can have that term applied to it. And yet, for all the apparent cliché which using the phrase imbues, The Battery really does feel like it subverts the zombie genre – the main reason behind this being that it isn’t really a zombie movie at all.
The film follows two former baseball players (professionals it would seem), Ben (played by writer-director Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim) as they journey throughout what remains of New England following the zombie apocalypse, encountering danger as their friendship comes under fire.
Yet what actually occurs on screen shows that this is ‘much more’ than a zombie movie; that is not to belittle the zombie genre, considering how a lot of good films have come out of it, of all shapes and sizes, but more to say that The Battery is a much more personal and pragmatic experience more akin to road movies than to the more obvious genre. There is no mention of ‘saving the world’, nor is there any mention of how the ‘epidemic’ began.
The movie dispenses with the traditional ‘three act structure’ – setup, confrontation, resolution – and instead, at least for most of the film, presents a series of linear vignettes, complimented by a blend of indie songs such as Rock Plaza Central’s ‘We Got A Lot To Be Glad For’ and the minimalist score by Ryan Winford.
Gardner, both on camera and behind the scenes, is fantastic, as is Cronheim opposite him on onscreen. Throughout the film there are little elements thrown in for characterisation. For example, near the start, Mickey tries a scratch card and ‘wins’ $1000. He then actually seems pretty pleased, as if he had genuinely won the money; yet all the while, Ben is impassive in the knowledge that they won’t be winning any money, what with the lottery workers probably dead and walking by now.
The use of the backstory is vital to the characters too. Ben constantly carries a baseball bat, and the two engage in various baseball-like games. Whilst this is as far as Mickey takes his skill, Ben frequently uses his talent for survival. With Mickey refusing to kill zombies, it goes someway to neatly establishing the contrast between the two.
Their chemistry throughout is superb as well. Gardner’s performance seems more assured and nuanced, whilst Cronheim certainly grows into his role as the film goes on, and in the final scenes delivers fantastic emotion from his character. Furthermore, the resolute focus on the two means that, on the few occasions that other characters appear, they really do feel like outsiders, alien and unknown, simply due to how much we know of Ben and Mickey in comparison.
In terms of chemistry, behind the camera too, it appears perfect – with Gardner and director of photography Christian Stella working well together to create some amazing scenes and individual shots worthy of any zombie film. There’s an emphasis on long, drawn-out takes over choppy editing -how much of this is due to the limitations of the production equipment (the film is one of the best examples of the flourishing ‘DSLR’ filmmaking community, shot on a Canon 5D MK II, eschewing the need for genuine ‘film cameras’ to create quality images) is up for debate – yet the emphasis works nevertheless, making sure the focus never strays from the characters themselves.
This does, however, highlight the one significant failing of the film. As much as the zombies are clearly intended to be the backdrop to the personal narrative, and not the main attraction, they never seem to be a genuine threat, bar one significant moment. The use of zombies as a plot device can be a great one to drive characters and expose their differences, yet The Battery could perhaps do with a bit more zombie focus, to remind viewers of the world that these characters are faced with.
The Battery is solid directorial debut from Jeremy Gardner and a perfect example of the growth of zombie movies beyond just pure horror. In its own right it’s a very interesting character film, even if the zombie element is perhaps a tad underused.