Directed by Jeremy Gardner
The Battery is an ambitious film.
Made for a meager $6,000 culled together from friends and family, Jeremy Gardner’s road movie set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse is focused less on the zombies than it is on the relationship between its two protagonists, Ben, played by Gardner, and Mickey (Adam Cronheim). Former baseball players who formed the battery, a term used to describe the collaborative relationship between the pitcher and the catcher, the two make their way across New England in an effort to survive not only a world ravaged by the living dead, but each other as well.
On the surface, it sounds like every other post-apocalyptic survival scenario you’ve ever seen; but Gardner, armed with razor sharp wit and a glorious beard, takes the focus off the external threat, relegating the zombies to the background and placing the relationship between Ben and Mickey front and center as they wander the New England forests and dirt roads in search of…
Well, therein lies the crux of The Battery. What are they searching for? Shortly before the close of the first act the duo receive a transmission via their walkie-talkies from a pair of voices speaking of “The Orchard,” an ostensible safe haven for survivors. After being denied its location and any sort of help, it becomes clear to Mickey that the situation he has found himself in – wandering from place to place with no clear destination – is not a life worth living.
In this we see the undeniably real dynamic between Ben and Mickey; nomadic by nature, Ben is hesitant to stay in one place for more than a day. He acts almost like a surrogate father to Mickey, who drowns out the world around him with his headphones, a habit Ben believes will get them killed. Conversely, Mickey wants nothing more than to contact the lone female voice on the other end of the walkie-talkie and seek out a future bereft of the daily threat of death. He refuses to kill, a task that falls on the shoulders of Ben time and time again, increasing the strain on their relationship and resulting in of the most passionate and emotional scenes in the film. It’s this dynamic that propels The Battery, with Gardner using the zombies as a catalyst to explore a relationship born out of necessity rather than the true bonds of friendship.
This is an incredibly difficult task, especially in regard to Gardner’s bold directorial decisions. Beautifully shot on the Canon 5D Mark II by cinematographer Christian Stella, quick cuts are eschewed in favor of long takes, with some totaling eleven minutes in length. While some could benefit from being slightly trimmed to create a tighter and shorter movie, they’re never utilized in a pretentious or unnecessary manner, with each serving a distinct purpose at conveying the growing bond between the two as they’re faced with utter hopelessness.
With the focus on two individuals, it’s up to Gardner and Cronheim to instill a semblance of believability in their characters, and they do so in a way that belies the ultra low budget and amateur status. Despite a few moments of dialogue that seem forced (shouting “motherfucker!” at someone never sounds believable), Ben’s easy-going and realistic attitude to their situation plays well against Mickey’s far more serious and optimistic approach, creating a dichotomy that keeps the wheels consistently turning, even when no one is saying a word. When words are spoken, it’s Gardner’s dialogue that allows Ben and Mickey’s relationship to seem genuine, reminiscent of the verbal barbs often thrown among friends as they sit around a campfire and contemplate life. It’s a world devoid of hope, but Gardner manages to instill a fleeting sense of humanity in his two protagonists in remarkable ways.
Filled with bold and gutsy decisions, unique characters, witty dialogue, and the most awkward masturbation scene possible, The Battery’s low-budget take on a much maligned subgenre proves that you don’t need an bottomless wallet, fancy makeup, or professional actors to make a compelling and emotional horror film. It bucks convention in the most admirable of ways, employing tactics that, in the wrong hands, can prove to be disastrous; in the hands of Jeremy Gardner, however, it’s a triumphant feat of dramatic horror.