The horror movie genre is very similar with a crowd of lumbering zombies. Once one really smart zombie finds a new way in the house, a bunch of similar looking, but way dumber zombies pour in and try to rip their share of flesh. Although, currently there are far too many zombie films available for our viewing pleasure then we know what to do with, this fact often comes with the insinuation that everything in the zombie niche has already been said and buried long ago. Many of the less than flattering zombie representations are as brainless as their lead antagonists, but sometimes a crazy, grotesque mutant zombie of a horror movie changes all expectations and slaps the viewer into focus with its pungent, moss covered claws.
In 2010, I was strangely satisfied with knowing I saw the very last zombie film I ever needed to see. The end of something special is usually bittersweet, but for some reason, I chose Bruce McDonald‘s telekinetic horror masterpiece : Pontypool, as a triumphant conclusion for the genre. Pontypool’s take on the zombie genre shocked me into a frenzy with its furiously experimental, downward spiral in desperation and some plot turns that resulted in that shooting pain behind your eyes that eventually results in a cranial explosion; Cronenberg style. Although I seemed elated to crown a unique and challenging walking dead film as the final nail in its respectable coffin, heavily bearded actor and director Jeremy Gardner literally exhumed the zombie corpse for one last round in his independent debut, The Battery.
The Battery, although quite barren, quiet and minimal, never feels as though its compensating for what little money Gardner had while creating his DIY zombie flick. The film opens slow, with a sensitive eye for keeping wide open airiness constantly stimulating and engaging for the spectator. For some reason, I immediately jumped to an uncanny association between the low budget, high atmosphere delivery of George A Romero’s immortal genre-staple, Night of the Living Dead (1968). The Battery follows two baseball players and their journey as they confront wants, desires and duality amidst a New England zombie apocalypse.
The film itself functions on a tightly wound balance that often equates to many examples of duality, one the the film’s most persistent themes. After a zombie outbreak forces polar opposites, Ben and Mickey, to struggle to find a common law the previously casual relationship between pitcher and catcher. The director sets up these character roles in a super smart way – by utilizing the term “team”, Gardner outlines teamwork, mindfulness and responsibility as key determining survival skills. These attributes would lead to the “best-case-scenerio” in the event of a catastrophe, but as the story would have it, they are certainly not the case.
The NoTLD motif returns again while Ben and Mickey recall their previous establishment as eerily similar to the white house Duane Jones and Judith O’Dea had inhabited some forty-two years prior. Forced to flee their residency, the two live as vagabonds supported entirely by the unpredictable but discipled bearded catcher Ben. A shelter is often used as a symbol of safety, individuality and nurturing. If we look at this through the duality claim, the house of safety transforms into a death trap. Mickey, played by Adam Cronheim, is a squeamish and overly sentimental pitcher who looks to escape his current state of hunting and gathering, preferring to relate to a world that is familiar, a time too far gone past according to the catcher.
In a daring and rare portrayal on sexuality during times of atrocity and human suffering, Mickey’s return to something familiar includes fantasy elements that plague the pitcher’s ability to cope with what is going on around him. This depiction surfaces again when the pitcher again chases the past by breaking into an empty memory of where his girlfriend used to live. He is seen taking underwear and perfume from the young woman’s drawer. Illustrated by his constant use of a discman to numb anything that reminds him of his present, Mickey makes a conscious effort to begin understanding the horrors that surround him. The Pitcher refuses to bare arms and take the life of any zombie until he is forced into defending himself in a bizarre hazing by the catcher, this opens a brief montage of friendship
About an hour in the two characters are trapped within the claustrophobic confines of an automobile for days on end, this too is a loaded symbol of duality in the story of this unconventional walking dead flick. The car represents the open road and freedom to the traveler’s desire to seek safety, but in this case, when the familiar becomes inverted, treacherous and absurd, their mode of transportation becomes an immovable cage. When all seems too difficult to endure, the boys turn to dark, comedic nihilism in taunts of intoxicated howls that rival their re-animated rivals just beyond the cabin’s doors.
From the very opening segments, Gardner’s large scale shots communicate very well his ability to animate emptiness to its fullest potential, with swaying chandeliers and the sporadic undead stumbling from room to room. The soundtrack was one of the only things I was not 100% set on, as it seemed far too concerned with evoked a certain nuts and berries hipness to it, but some people will be into that thing. This is an immensely impressive debut and a dreaded genre undertaking that was not only pulled off with finesse, but honest voice and intensity. So remember when your back is against the theater walls and you’re begging for not another zombie movie, reconsider your pleas in favor of genre shakers and experimentation within the upcoming filmic talents like Jeremy Gardner
The only remaining American screening of The Battery is : The Awesome Fest Sleepover, Philadelphia – Sept 13th
The film is available to stream and own for $7 from their website.
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[schema type=”review” name=”The Battery | Review Summary” description=”The Awesome: Successfully revitalizes a seemingly tapped niche while being mindful of genre classics | The Not So Awesome: folk music soundtrack, gorehounds will be less than amused, may alienate some viewers not willing to meditate on some long-winded takes” rev_name=”The Battery” rev_body=”A furiously refreshing trip down the beaten path, actor, writer and director Jeremy Gardner tears the zombie flick troupe limb from limb in pursuit of a stripped down, drama-heavy undead scenario. Two team mates, Ben, an agressive go-getter, and Mikey, a sensitive pacifist, test each other’s endurance as two polar opposite personalities deal with the harsh realities of a zombie apocalypse. ” author=”Spencer Churchill” pubdate=”2013-09-06″ user_review=”8″ min_review=”0″ max_review=”10″ ]
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The reviewer paid for their own screening of The Battery for review purposes.