The Battery

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Former baseball players Ben and Mickey have been wandering New England’s countryside since escaping the undead siege of their Pittsfield shelter, but the pair’s differing personalities may cause them to turn on each other before the zombies can get a bite.

Reading the plot for this kind of threw me off, but mainly because I was curious why a movie that took place on a trip through the countryside was called The Battery. Was there a battery they carried with them, did someone commit battery, or was there a gun battery that maybe needed to be defended? Turns out I was wrong on all fronts because the battery they’re referring to is a baseball term about a pitcher and a catcher being a single entity, which is awesome because if they’ve started using gene splicing in the sport I might actually watch it. As it stands, I’m not much of a baseball fan, so I don’t know any of the terms. I had to play little league baseball when I was a kid, and to this day I feel like hiding under a bench if I hear the world “Strike,” makes me a terrible bowler. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a little league game, but those parents are hardcore, and as a kid, I started worrying that all the players I didn’t see after a couple of weeks were being buried under the field for their failures. I had whole scenes play out in my head, scenes full of parents in black robes sacrificing their kids to the God of the Diamond, did I mention I also watched Children of the Corn around this time. That and watching drunk parents brawl over missed pitches and strikeouts killed my love of the game. I’m not complaining though, I was terrible anyways, and it just prepared me for life later, or more accurately the lack thereof. Zombies aren’t exactly known for our physical prowess, and undead baseball is just a bunch of zombies standing around to grumble about how much they hate baseball. Besides, there’s still hockey, so I’m good.

Baseball players Ben (Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim) were teammates before the living dead decided to make the entire planet their stomping grounds, but the zombie apocalypse has forced the pair to rely on one another for more than a win. After they escaped the Massachusetts house they were holed up in for three months (something revealed via backstory as the film begins after these events), they decided to wander the New England countryside as Ben believed fewer zombies would be roaming the woodlands. How long they’ve been walking these lands isn’t known, but their time spent exploring has led them to a place where Mickey hoped he’d be reunited with an old flame. The home turns out to be empty, but not without value as a pair of walkie talkies found inside the abandoned home come to life with the voices of survivors at a location known only as The Orchard. Unfortunately, these survivors want nothing to with the pair and issue them a stern warning to stay away lest they face dire consequences. This of course means they’ll have to stay on the move, and though that makes Ben happy, Mickey is more interested in finding a place to settle down, further fracturing an already tenuous relationship. Will the two move past their disagreement, will the stress cause them to turn on one another, or will the living dead devour them both first? At the end of the world, all three options are on the table.

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{I guess lung cancer might be a fourth option, at least for Ben}

I love a good soundtrack. I love a good score too, but soundtracks seem harder to nail down. There’s nothing that ruins a film like having an out of place song come up at the wrong time. Brittany Spears’ Toxic might have worked great for that Doctor Who episode with the last human, but having it play when the dying man is saying his goodbyes to the love of his life doesn’t seem right even in a comedy. The Battery does not have this problem. From the minute Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold My Body Down) plays at the beginning, even if it isn’t the Johnny Cash version, you know they’ve thought out their musical selection. Before you rush out to buy the soundtrack, because I too often make my musical purchases based on zombies who know nothing about me, understand that it isn’t so much the songs themselves that are great as much as how and when they’re utilized. Sometimes it’s the lyrics themselves that are relevant to the plot or scene, like with Ain’t No Grave, other times it’s the tone, the feeling of a song, that fits with what the mood at that time. So, when Ben is drunkenly dancing around an abandoned house, the song fits, or when the pair do their best to have fun in a world that wants them dead, the songs fits, and anytime the film displays one of the many gorgeous shots you’ll find along the way, the song always fits. The Battery follows two people and two people alone, more on that in a sec, and the sense of isolation that comes along with that allows for some beautiful, and lonely, shots, and each time they go out of their way to set one of these shots up, whatever song accompanies that moment is perfect. I don’t generally fawn so completely over a soundtrack, but when this much effort was put into all aspects of the film’s sound, I think it’s earned a moment of recognition.

{I’ll just leave this here}

With my soundtrack drooling out of the way I can move on to this film’s greatest success, giving us a story that focuses solely on the journey of two people struggling not just to survive, but to survive with their sanity intact. I’ve been on a lucky streak with small casts lately, both The Dead and its sequel avoided group drama by keeping the focus on only two people, but The Battery slimed it down even further. Where The Dead films included a cast of other people the two heroes came into contact with, The Battery features only two people for all but five minutes of the movie. There is a very short scene that has Ben and Mickey running into three survivors, but other than that it is those two alone. This enables the viewer to feel the same sense of isolation as Ben and Mickey; it’s also what gave the filmmakers the ability to create the haunting and stunning shots I mentioned earlier (I can’t not praise the cinematography enough). What’s great is that their journey doesn’t have a destination in mind; they’re simply moving from place to place, exploring the countryside because there’s nothing better to do. They’re not searching for refuge or safety, though Mickey does hope to one day locate such a place, only for a path to walk and enough supplies to keep them going. Due to the grim situation the pair found themselves facing during their time in hiding, a situation that found them eating dog food and then the dog, Ben is virtually terrified of staying in one place for too long. Their journey will most likely be of the never-ending variety, never ending here though means always moving forward until they end up among the undead themselves, seemingly the only ending for anyone left alive.

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{There’s nothing funny about taunting a zombie with a cigarette}

The Battery had more than just a great soundtrack and a great story, it also had an excellent pair of characters, characters so developed that they’re able to tell a story with surprisingly little dialogue. The thing that makes the relationship between Ben and Mickey so interesting is the fact that it’s circumstance alone that threw them together, so they aren’t necessarily friends. Prior to the zombie apocalypse, they were only teammates, two people whose one connection was the love of a game, and this gives them a lot of room to grow, especially considering Ben and Mickey are two completely different people. Ben becomes anxious at just the thought of stopping, but Mickey dreams of a place to settle down, Ben revels in killing zombies, but Mickey just wants to avoid them, and Ben has accepted the world as it is, but Mickey wants to hide from it so badly that he wears earphones wherever he goes knowing it endangers them both. Rather than these differences being a point of contention, they’re what end up helping them stay alive, the weakness of one becoming the strength of the other. If it weren’t Ben’s aggressive nature, Mickey would surely be dead, and if it weren’t for Mickey’s more hopeful outlook on life, or at least his attempt to be hopeful, Ben would have lost his mind a long time ago. They need each other, and their journey isn’t one of only miles, but of the realization of just how much they need each other. They’re shared path, the fact that with the world gone to hell at least they don’t have to be alone, causes a mirthful enjoyment in the pair that stands in stark contrast to the film’s darker undertones. There was a strange, almost wistful smile that kept spreading across my face whenever the two would start doing the kinds of things people do when they’re trying to have a good time, not silly things like party and destroy everything for fun like you see happen in a lot of zombie flicks, but the normal things two guys would do if they were just hanging out, and they do this amid so much darkness. It made them real people you could empathize with; people whose lives I came to care a great deal about. Actors Jeremy Gardner and Adam Cronheim both gave an absolutely wonderful performance.

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{And just wait until you get to this point}

My only gripe was with a mystery the film decided not to answer. It wasn’t something necessary or anything that ruined my enjoyment, but I walked away a little disappointed to have never discovered what was going on with a certain group of people, sorry, no spoilers. Speaking of walking away disappointed, make sure you don’t turn off the film when the credits roll or disappointment might just be what you find, sorry again but spoilers. The Battery isn’t a gory film, and there aren’t a whole lot of zombies the duo encounter, but this film isn’t about the zombies, it’s about the two people trying to survive them, and I loved it. This is one I’d highly recommend.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Jeremy Gardner (Tex Montana Will Survive!)

Starring: Jeremy Gardner (Spring, Tex Montana Will Survive!) and Adam Cronheim (Tex Montana Will Survive!)

Written By: Jeremy Gardner (The Bags)

Released By: O. Hannah Films and Shout! Factory

Release Year: 2012

Release Type: Straight to Video

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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