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Stephanie Ogrodnik [Film Festival 10.14.12] post apocalyptic zombies comedy drama

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Since the strange plague began, two former baseball players have been stuck living the life of nomads and scavengers, scouring abandoned homes for resources and sleeping with one eye open. Armed with a bat and a beard, Jeremy Gardner not only directed and wrote The Battery, but also stars in his film as catcher-turned-ultimate-zombie-destroyer, Ben, opposite Adam Cronheim, as Mickey. This is by no means a perfect film and in some aspects relies on its own soundtrack to break the monotony of its characters' travels. However, I found myself enjoying the film, even in spite of my personal lack of desire to invest in a film that screams arthouse at ear-splitting volumes. Though not without its pretensions, it is a well-executed film in many ways and as a first-time cinematography credit for Christian Stella, it's also beautifully shot. As a whole, for Garne's directorial debut, this is a great start.

There were many factors that could have made this film little more than a hipster-friendly horror special. Mickey blocks out his fears with a CD player and a pair of blue retro headphones, which plays an important role in Mickey's character development. It also becomes a great tool for leading us into travel montages, or setting the tone for observing the characters' growth, which the filmmakers do not use sparingly. Over and over, Mickey slips on the headphones and music swells over the scene, while we enter clips of them plodding down empty roads or curiously staring at grasshoppers. Again, this is not to say that these were not visually stunning scenes. Like in Quentin Dupieux's Rubber, smooth editing and carefully balanced, stylized shots can make even the slowest points of the film pleasing to watch. What I will say, is that as a great portion of the film, particularly the first forty minutes, is comprised of these scenes and montages, it sometimes looked and felt like an extended music video for Mickey's special post-apocalyptic mix tape-or a Levi's commercial. The main downfall of this is that while they use this to reveal a great deal of information, they also have a tendency to drag these scenes much longer than necessary, making it easier for us to question why this couldn't have been made into a short film.

If you've seen the lengthy trailer for the film, you might already know that this is far from the high tension, action-packed zombie films of the Rec and 28 Days Later franchises. Especially when lacking in numbers, these barely-human creatures might have even been more destructive when they were alive. Instead, what keeps the viewers involved in this indie zombie flick is the characters. Rather than focusing on confrontations with the undead, Gardner's film becomes an in-depth character study of two men forced to cope in a time when coping and surviving is what their lives are limited to. Though Mickey is disgusted by Ben's treatment of the recently walking deceased, it becomes clear that his own manner of dealing with the dead might be no less debaucherous. The main struggle throughout the film is the battle between both men's conflicting visions of reality, one throwing himself into survival mode and the other clinging to the comforts of his past and any signs of hope. Unfortunately, for many zombie films, the real trouble always begins with the prospect of hope.

Some of the dialogu does feel forced. At times we are blatantly being lead into exposition for the sake of the plot. It's also amusing that neither Mickey, nor Ben, appears deeply affected when Ben rounds off the body count of Mickey's family members...and one dog. I wasn't sure if I was meant to be laughing. Still, none of this keeps our two leads from being relatable and neither of them manages to slip so far into the realm of general character archetypes that we lose touch with their journey. This could have developed into a painfully bland film, following two average guys in the land of limited zombies. Luckily, again, the characters are the strongest aspect to the film.

Credit must also be given to the editors and those involved in developing the score and acquiring the rights to the music. From El Cantador's "Mammoth" to Rock Plaza Central's "Anthem for the Already Defeated," each track has been carefully chosen to amplify the tone of each scene. Circling back to the issue of the infamous headphones, I am not condoning the use of music and lyrics to tell a story that should be accessible through the action and dialogue onscreen. However, if you are going to construct your film in this way, you might as well do it with a kick ass soundtrack. Even if you absolutely despise this type of indie rock, there's something sickeningly drawing as Ben flips his baseball bat over his shoulder, revealing a weapon coated in fresh blood, while a girl sweetly sings, "You know we're the only ones..."

There are pieces of this film that would have best been scrapped in development table. What is important is that these flaws don't prevent its audience from appreciating its vision. This is not a film for a mass audience. It's not even a film I'd recommend to all zombie horror lovers. Regardless, it is a film that I could see again and if I find another project in a few years by Jeremy Gardner, I'd be happy to pick it up.

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quietearth (9 years ago) Reply

The audience loved this film.


ChristianStella (9 years ago) Reply

I am the DP on The Battery. I am sorry you did not get to see it with an audience at the festival. I just wanted to let you know that the online screener you reviewed differed from what premiered at the Telluride Horror Show. We actually went in and trimmed montages and rearranged others to give the movie a better flow, less interrupted flow. Your comments were spot on for that early cut of the movie, but we hope you will one day revisit it in the future. With such a small budget, things are always a work in progress.

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