Review: The Battery (2012)

Horror Movie Mini-Review by Zeus | 2014-04-09

The Battery (2012)

Ben (writer/director Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (co-producer Adam Cronheim) are two baseball players, doing their best to avoid a zombie apocalypse by keeping to the gorgeous backroads of New England. Ben survives by second nature. He clears out each house with a baseball bat, scavenging for supplies while cracking jokes. But he refuses to spend a night indoors -- being trapped inside by a hoard once was enough for a lifetime. Mickey is having a harder time adjusting to life among the undead. He hides behind the bulky earphones of his battery operated CD player, blocking out the world with indie rock. It's a point of contention: Ben constantly harps on him to turn it down and be aware of his surroundings. He even sneaks behind his friend, making loud zombie noises to prove the point.

When The Walking Dead premiered, mainstream TV critics unfamiliar with horror movies went around telling everyone that in this zombie apocalypse, it's not the undead you have to watch out for, it's the humans! Of course, it's been that way ever since survivors got each other killed back in Night of the Living Dead. The undead typically serve as a backdrop to grand human displays of good against evil. But The Battery follows two guys who are neither kickass heroes nor conniving villains, they're both just kind of fucked up.

Most of the movie focuses on their strained friendship. Ben and Mickey don't exactly have much in common. Despite their humorous banter, they probably wouldn't be hanging out if not for the whole zombie apocalypse thing. And neither make a very good first impression. Remember Rain Man, how at first Tom Cruise was a borderline sociopath, but by the end, you wound up rooting for him? The change was so subtle, it's hard to think of an obvious turning point. It's sort of the same with Ben and Mickey. Each has a scene around the middle of the movie that, I imagine, will alienate half the people who were getting to like them. And yet, the characters are strangely endearing. Screwed up, yeah -- who wouldn't be? In the end, they really grew on me.

The Battery is a horror dramedy. While there's less focus on scares, it excells at mounting dread. Several times, Ben and Mickey will be going through a sort of golden period, squabbling about little things. And then the music slowly fades, and there's an unsettling sense that something horrible is about to happen. The film makes use of extended shots that seem to go on forever. We're not talking tightly choreographed Alfonso CuarĂ³n action scenes -- these are long, long shots of characters slowly coming to terms with a world gone mad. It may be too long for some, but I think if these scenes were trimmed down, some of the magic would have been lost. Compare them to extended jokes (like this movie's toothbrushing scene) that keep repeating until they lose you, only to come back around to being funny again. Here, your mind may wander, but never too far from the light.

If recent favorites Resolution and The Banshee Chapter taught me anything, it's that all a great horror movie needs these days is two solid characters and less than a million dollars. The Battery takes this theory to the extreme. It's practically a two man show, filmed on a $6,000 budget. The movie has an eye for locations, and cinematographer Christian Stella's nature shots are striking. The first half plays like a lonely road movie where everyone's already dead, a Travelogue of the Damned set to set to a soundtrack I really need to hunt down. Zombie fatigue may have set in for some of us, but trust me, you need to see this movie. I'm sick of procedural crime dramas, but I'm glad I gave True Detective a chance. So check out The Battery, and spend two hours with a couple of characters that will stick with you well after the credits roll. (4/5 Stars)

The filmmakers offer a DRM-free HD download for $5.

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