Want to see a zombie buddy movie made for about six thousand dollars? Okay normally hearing the will make the average movie goer roll there eyes and the drop their $13 on the latest romcom that features the exact character development and situations of the three hundred such movies they have see before. What I am saying is America is trained to see a small slither of commercially produced film and very seldom will waiver from their programming. Sure around Oscar time the thinking man drivel will be rolled out to be displayed with it's broken character so Philip Seymore Hoffman or can wow the public with his prowess as an actor who lives his characters. In general though they will go see the epic which remarkable also end up getting awards. They happily go an watch Daniel Day Lewis turn Lincoln into a shuffling old grandpa who can't seem to stop talking in stories. So much so that the screenwriters had to make an inside joke about it in the fucking movie. Yet the awards and millions of dollars in budgets go to these films and the people flock to see them. Ask an average movie goer to see a small independent film and level of contempt is shown because it is not in the training to even see these films. America you are missing out! Thousands of small films are released each year and most are seen by too few eyes. Luckily for horror fans in eastern Massachusetts have the wonderful horror buffs at All Things Horror Online who seek out and bring us those movies we would normally miss. They can also be contacted as most groups through their Facebook page. All Things Horror try to have a screening at the Somerville Theater the third Saturday of each month presenting shorts and usually a new horror feature from independent film makers. This is what I was out doing Saturday night and would love to see all of you too in the future.
The Battery (2012) written and directed by and acted in by Jeremy Gardner who came to the event and did a Q&A after the feature was shown. The film a character driven story about two former minor league baseball players making there way through western Connecticut after the zombie apocalypse. Gardner plays Ben a former minor league catcher, a survivor and realist in an unbelievable situation. He is traveling with his former teammate and battery mate pitcher, Mickey (Adam Cronheim) not so much going anywhere but more keeping on the move to avoid being trapped in any one place. It is alluded to that at one point they had been trapped in a house in Pittsfield MA. for several months and only when completely desperate had tried a ploy to escape that luckily for them had worked. Since then they had roamed the back roads of New England making the best of the end of civilization.
Budget limited this film severely but what you get is a solid character based film about too guys in an impossible situation. Ben is all business in the end of the world. Moving place to place, staying out of populated areas and surviving. He is Mickey's protector and does all the killing of the pair. Ben doesn't seem to mind the constant travel and kills because it needs to be done not because there is any joy in it. Mickey travels with him in a state of denial, wearing headphones he can't even bring himself to say the word zombie even though the evidence is all around him that it is indeed the fate of most people to be zombies. So for Mickey there is a pretty clear story arc. He must come out of his denial and start defending himself to be able to survive the situation if ever anything should happen to Ben. Early in the film I was reminded of parts of the film Stake Land (2010) where there is also a character who has a story arc that takes him from dependent to competent.
Overall the film does a very good storytelling the adventures two travelers but there are some structural flaws that work against the story. Now before I get started here I want to be clear I really enjoyed the film. There are some pretty inspired ideas in it and I would watch it again. I's important to note this film was made for almost nothing and is very well executed. But feedback is a gift, and you know that sometimes the gift you get was not the gift you wanted, so onward...
More than that though was a really tough structural choice, somewhere just about or a bit over halfway the film sort of moves Mickey's arc along. He and Ben come to a house and Mickey wants to stay the night instead of sleeping on the road in the car. He is very insistent and Ben consents but only after reminding him that he does not want another Pittsfield situation. When Ben puts a captured zombie into the bedroom with Mickey, forcing him to make his first kill we see Mickey change. He becomes the more complete survivor and is now more on equal terms with Ben. Still he is looking for stability and hearing a women's voice on a walkie-talkie is all it takes to get him obsessing about who and where she is. The early completion of his person arc left too much time between the middle of the film and the end of the third act where his development pays off. I think I would have liked if the arc complete a bit later, the third act where the situation calls for him to stand up and be the leader in the situation at hand.
All the build up of the first two acts is thwarted by the long car scene of the third act. Where we should have been building to something exciting and grand instead we have a ten minute scene of two people trapped in a car. There was some good energy and development but all of it is lost in the third act. I know that the setup is there but boy was that the hardest part of the film to watch. When all was said and done though the film holds up. Now if you are a horror fan and think you are getting a big budget film, remove that idea from your head. Because of the small independent source this is not full of special effect and really has very few zombies in it also. It really is based in the world but specifically in looking at these two men. Still The Battery is an solid film with a good story and is worth a watch. It is soon to be distributed through steaming services so keep an eye out for it.