• Battery, The



    Directed By: Jeremy Gardner
    Released By: Scream Factory
    Released On: September 16, 2014
    Cast: Jeremy Gardner, Adam Cronheim
    Year: 2012
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie

    Made for a micro-budget of $6000 and shot in just 16 days, The Battery is the feature debut of indie filmmaker Jeremy Gardner and the best new zombie film I've seen in years.

    The new wave of zombie horror in the early 2000s brought with it a few modern classics like Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later, and even some cult films like Dead Snow. Not to mention the fact that the massive success of The Walking Dead has made zombies more popular than ever before. Unfortunately, zombie films made in the current decade have been mostly worthless, from big budget dreck like World War Z to micro-budget camp like My Fair Zombie. Now more than ever, making a zombie film is just an excuse to shoot something on the cheap, but without the ambition of low-budget auteurs like George A. Romero. Say what you will about latter day Romero efforts like Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead, at least he was trying to say something with those films. Which brings me to The Battery. What separates this from other low-budget zombie films is that you could take the zombies right out of the film, and it would still work. Make it a post-apocalyptic road movie, or an arthouse film about two guys just lost in the wilderness, and because of the script and the quality of the direction supporting this film it would still hold together.

    I'm getting ahead of myself though. What is The Battery about? The film follows two baseball players, Ben (Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim), who are trying to stay alive in rural New England after a zombie plague wiped out most of America. They're not really sure how far reaching the plague is. All we're told is that they were playing a ball game in Pittsburgh when the outbreak happened, they managed to escape the city, and now they're just trying to stay alive, foraging for food and other necessities in abandoned houses throughout the New England countryside. We also know that they're alone, and haven't met another living person for a long time. The film presents its story in media res, with very few details provided to the viewer, fitting the film's minimalist tone and empty, naturalistic setting. The lack of details suits the story and the situation these characters are in. They're completely cut off from society, and any form of communication with the outside world. They're totally alone, and maybe they're better off that way.

    Though the two are friends, their response to the post-plague world couldn't be more different. Ben has adjusted pretty well to the nomadic life. He's stopped giving a shit about personal hygiene, and relishes the opportunity to bash in the brains of any zombie he comes across with his trusty baseball bat. He lives in the Now. Mickey on the other hand, seeks escape in conspicuous signifiers of the pre-apocalpyse: his American Apparel clothes, hair gel, discman and some mementos of his girlfriend, who is assumed dead. Ben wants to stay on the move, never stopping and never sleeping inside the houses they come across. Not after what happened to them in Pittsburgh (details of which are gradually revealed). Mickey thinks it would be better if they established a base, but Ben thinks that is suicide. Eventually, they find some walkie talkies and pick up a signal over the air. They hear two other survivor's talking to each other. Mickey tries talking to them, a man named Frank and a woman named Annie, but is told they're not welcome. Ben tells him to leave it alone, but Mickey keeps calling out to the woman on the other end.

    The horror of their situation gradually begins to increase as Mickey's loneliness gets the better of him, and Ben's attempts to get him to face reality drive a wedge between them. In the tradition of the best zombie films, the worst enemies you can possibly face after a zombie holocaust are other people. A few scenes run on a little long, and if you're less inclined to enjoy American independent cinema outside of the horror genre, then The Battery might try your patience, but if you're willing to give it your attention span and 100 minutes of your time, you'll find that The Battery is as much a great film as it is a great zombie film.

    Audio/Video/Extras

    Scream Factory made a lot of horror fans happy when it was announced that they would be co-releasing The Battery on Blu-ray, and that announcement has paid off. The film looks fantastic in this high-definition MPEG-4 AVC encode, presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The Battery looks much better than you would ever expect a movie made for $6000 to look, and that's more to due with the quality of the talent behind the camera than the HD transfer on this Blu-ray. Not every low-budget film is as nicely photographed as this, and it's even rarer when a movie made for under $10,000 looks this good. Think about this, Clerks was shot in black and white and on film for approx. $230,000, and that whole movie basically takes place in a single location. There are only two shots in can think of in The Battery that show off its low-budget origins, and not because of the special effects. There are a few instances where the lighting becomes darker and grainy, contrasting against the mostly brightly lit, impeccably clean look of the film. Colors here are also very bright, with things like Mickey's yellow shirt and the green of the countryside popping out really well, but never looking artificially boosted. Again, I just can't stress enough how good this movie looks considering it's budget.

    The film's sonic presentation is handled by a DTS-HD master audio track that also really brings out the high-quality and careful sound design executed here. One of the biggest things I seem to run into with indie features is that they're never mic'd well and the quality of the audio dialogue can change from scene to scene. Well here it sounds great, which is really saying something considering a lot of the dialogue was recorded in post, and apparently the ambient score was created using “instruments” like a toaster and a beer bottle. I'm not kidding, and you could never tell by listening to it unless someone told you (or you read it off IMBD). The film's soundtrack is great. Most of it is eclectic indie folk and off-kilter Americana, but it really works within the context of the film's setting. There's not a whole lot of dynamic action in the 5.1 mix but it sounds really great overall and there's very little to find fault with. For those without a 5.1 audio setup, a 2.0 DTS-HD MA track is also included. English subtitles for the hearing impaired are also featured.

    In terms of extras, The Battery has some nice special features but it doesn't go overboard with the extras (something I've noticed many low-budget horror films seem to do). There's an informative and engaging audio commentary with writer-director-actor Jeremy Gardner, producer and co-star Adam Cronheim, and director of photography Christian Stella. Also included on this disc is “Tools of Ignorance: The Making of The Battery,” a 90-minute making of feature that should be considered required viewing for similarly ambitious low-budget filmmakers. Rounding out the extras are an Outtake Reel, concert footage of Rock Plaza Central (responsible for much of the film's music), a trailer for The Battery, and trailers for other recent Scream Factory releases. All in all, fans of the The Battery will be ecstatic with how it looks and sounds, and the extras that were included.

    The Final Word

    Scream Factory's excellent Blu-ray of The Battery will please horror fans looking for a zombie film that does something different with the living dead for a change. Jeremy Gardner is an exciting, talented new voice in American film, and I look forward to seeing what he does next.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!