THE BATTERY is wonderful storytelling whether you like zombies or not

TheBatteryAlternatePosterSome people won’t like THE BATTERY. Some zombie fans won’t even like THE BATTERY. But if you’re a fan of quiet, creeping horror, of character-driven story, and yes, a little blood and guts, then you will not just appreciate THE BATTERY, you will adore this movie.

On the face of it, THE BATTERY is just another post apocalyptic zombie flick, but that’s like saying the freshest, juiciest hamburger you’ve ever had is basically the same thing as McDonald’s. The difference is in the near-perfect execution—and the amazing patience—that writer/director/producer/star Jeremy Gardner has with this film.

“Ben” (Jeremy Gardner) and “Mickey” (Adam Cronheim) are former teammates from a minor-league baseball team. Ben was a star starting catcher, and Mickey was a pitcher in the bullpen. They didn’t really know each other during their playing days, but have formed a “battery” in the new, zombie-infested world. (For those who are not in the know, a battery is a shorthand term describing a pitcher and catcher.)

Ben has come to terms with the new world they live in, but Mickey hasn’t even adjusted to the point where he can put down a zombie. He hides in his headphones and lets Ben do all the dirty work while they wander from one spot to another. Mickey wants to settle down, find a safe place and maybe some companionship, while Ben believes that their lives are as good as they’re going to get. The tension between these two world views is what drives much of the picture, but especially the first and second acts.

Let me take a moment to applaud Cronheim’s performance. In the hands of another director, his character would come off as weak and whiney, the central casting call for the biggest flake to come in, melt down, and either cause problems to be solved by the hero, or at least be rescued by him. Cronheim doesn’t let this happen. Mickey is not weak. He’s not broken. He’s just different than Ben, closing in on incompatible, but not quite. The dynamic between the two is the movie’s diesel engine.

I mentioned patience with Gardner’s direction. There is a scene about fifteen minutes into the film that encapsulates what people are loving or hating about this movie. Mickey finds a couple of toothbrushes and some toothpaste, and they spend the next dialogue-free 90 seconds brushing their teeth.

Think about how long 90 seconds is in a movie. It’s a long damn time–but Gardner uses the time so well, and the pair’s performance is just so spot on. I mean, just imagine how good brushing your teeth would feel in that situation, and its a great wordless description of Ben’s and Mickey’s relationship. I would say more, but I can’t. The scene says it all.

The plot turns when they find a pair of walkie talkies and discover that there are other people in the area–people who tell them that they aren’t welcome. Mickey argues with Ben about finding them, but he ultimately settles for a night under a roof–something that Ben finds dangerous, but probably just reminds him of the horrors he witnessed the last time he stayed in a house. Their stay there culminates in Mickey’s first zombie kill, and while the blood and violence are something that you’d expect in a zombie movie, the character development is not.

I want to tell you more about the movie. I want to tell you all about the movie, but it is really something just best left experienced, and if your tastes run like mine, you will be awestruck at how much story, how much quality, Gardner squeezes from a mere $6,000 budget. I’ve seen tentpole movies that couldn’t carry this film’s water. Good tentpole movies.

The release date is listed as June 4, 2013 on IMDB.com, and while it is available via streaming portals, the BluRay and DVD are just now only available for preorder with a street date of September 16th. However you watch this movie, though, watch it. THE BATTERY might not be for you, but if it is, you’ll thank me. I’m a huge fan of the genre, from THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD to 28 DAYS LATER to THE WALKING DEAD (which it superficially resembles) but I can unequivocally say, THE BATTERY is the best zombie film I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying a lot.

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