Jeremy Gardner’s debut film The Battery reinvigorates the dying zombie narrative by focusing on the living rather than the dead. The Battery acknowledges the tired zombie tropes and then moves past them to create a strong character-driven film.
This super-low budget project (made with only $6,000) didn’t have the luxury of leaning on gore-covered extras limping around an abandoned city. Fortunately this works to Gardner’s advantage: he never relies on the zombies to drive the plot. Instead the shambling corpses are just a backdrop for a story about two very different men forced together by circumstances. Ben and Mickey played baseball in a past life and now they are stuck together on the road looking for supplies or sleeping on roofs. Ben just wants to enjoy surviving however he can, while Mickey can’t even bring himself to say the ‘z’ word. Their lingering awkwardness and discomfort with one another is juxtaposed by an unspoken affection and need for human contact.
The other aspect of the film Gardner gets right is his subversion of expectations. Every time I anticipated something happening, something else occurred. Or nothing happened at all. The silence and monotony in this film do more than action or events. There are many scenes of the pair just walking, playing catch or just sitting and waiting for time to pass. This breathes realism into a sort-of apocalypse. It made my laughter genuine rather than a simple reaction to Gardner’s guiding hand. I also found myself pleasantly unprepared for the heavy moments when the gravity of their situation really sunk in. This level of unpredictability elevated The Battery from just a comedic and clever take on ‘the end of the world’ movie to a well-crafted film.
The Battery is available here or on iTunes.