It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born. For the curious, here are links to 2008, 2009 (a bad year), 2010, 2011, 2012 (when we left the blog behind), 2013, and 2014. Bad Friday The Battery (2012) Writer/Director: Jeremy Gardner Also known as Ben and Mickey vs The Dead. A few months ago I reviewed the indie-noir-revenge thriller Blue Ruin and was simply blown away. Not only because it was well-written and acted, but because it worked so well within the financial and logistical difficulties that are intrinsic with low-no budget filmmaking. I was simply stunned by what Jeremy Saulnier was able to get put on the screen. I’ve watched a lot of other low-no budget films over the past six months — more than I’ve ever watched before — and while there are some really good ones, really fun ones, really innovative ones, none have hit me the same way Blue Ruin did until The Battery (note: it is not because of the beards). The Battery was filmed over 16 days for $6000 with a limited cast and crew. According to interviews with Gardner, the budget was established first and then the writing and filming was adjusted around it, so he chose to really focus on the intimate experience of two ex-baseball players on their own after the zombie apocalypse. This is a concept that isn’t entirely original in the low budget zombie movie landscape, but rarely has it been done with this well. A lot of that comes down to the personalities of the characters and the performances of Gardner as Ben and Adam Cronheim as Mickey. If you’re looking for gory kills or complex action sequences, this is not the film for you. The entire approach to the story is diametrically opposed to most of the films we’ve already discussed this week, where usually the threat of zombies is intrinsic and the zombie effects take center stage (for better or worse). The main characters in all of the films so far are people who either are heroes or are on the way to becoming heroes. That character arc is pretty universal in these films, with the zombie apocalypse being the crucible through which heroes are made, live, and die. The Battery isn’t really interested in heroism. At least not in the way that other films tend to frame the concept. Usually heroism is developed and refined over the course of a quest of some sort. All of the films in this year’s marathon are defined by this. A goal is set and must be achieved. Hell, even Stalled re-imagines this as both a journey out of the bathroom where W.C. is trapped and an emotional journey as he becomes a better person. In The Battery, there is no end in sight. Ben and Mickey aren’t going anywhere in particular and their central conflict is the fact that Ben is okay with this, while Mickey is desperate for an endgame. I suppose this could be a barrier to entry for viewers, too, but I found it to be refreshing. Instead of characters who are defined by their escapist acts of bravery (or cowardice), their overcoming of massive obstacles as if in a video game, Ben and Mickey seem like real people just trying to get by. Sometimes they’re annoying. Sometimes they’re funny. Sometimes they’re heroic. Sometimes they’re cowardly. But they’re never defined by those moments. Those moments are just part of the overall character; you know, just like a real person. Both Gardner’s and Cronheim’s performances are naturalistic as hell. There’s never a sense that they’re reciting dialogue and that improvisational feel helps to create an emotional connection that other films this year have been lacking. There’s never a sense that they’re performing; they’re fully inhabiting these roles and experiencing these situations. Another element that made me love this film was the fact that they chose to avoid the traditional trapped in a house scenario that is the Platonic Ideal of zombie films — only referencing that they went through one and survived. The majority of The Battery is Ben and Mickey on the road, traveling around, scavenging for food, and bickering. Ben is made for this world, but Mickey is not. He wants at least some comforts; a bed, a roof, a girlfriend. The film uses its soundtrack to really establish the barrier that Mickey puts up between himself and the world around him. The music, indie rock from across the internet, blasts loudly, shutting out the sounds of nature, approaching zombies, and Ben. It’s a creative way of using music to both establish character and shape the narrative approach. The openness of the first two thirds of the film is then countered with a risky final act that echoes what Bobcat Goldthwait did at the end of his recent Bigfoot film Willow Creek. When Ben and Mickey find themselves trapped in their car surrounded by zombies, we are treated to an extended sequence of them simply hanging out in the car. This is going to drive some viewers crazy, but again, because we’ve become invested in the lives of these two and know that they’re not superheroes, but ordinary people, there’s a lot more tension because we know there’s not a big heroic action sequence on the way. And when action is finally taken, it ends poorly. Despite this, the end of the film does a fantastic job in making the car sequence resonate and establishes the potential for a sequel somewhere down the line. According to interviews (and the r/zombies subreddit) the only real barrier to this happening someday is time and, to an extent, money. But then again, couldn’t that be said of all the creative projects we all want to do? The gang at O. hanna Films have already been able to pull another film together, Tex Montana Will Survive!, and it should be released sometime soon. Even though it’s not a sequel to The Battery, I’m ready and willing to check it out, along with whatever else they may come up with thanks to the strength of this first effort. See larger image The Battery [Blu-ray] New From: $13.59 USD In Stock EZMM 2015 Day 6.1: The Battery (2012)Paul's Rating4.5Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response EZMM 2015 Day 7: Contracted (2013) & Dead Within (2014) - Psycho Drive-In April 5, 2015 […] me just say that the direction is superb and the performances, outstanding. As with The Battery earlier in the week, the use of improv — good improv — really helps to establish a […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.