The Battery is a zombie film with a more realistic and natural approach than most of its kind. Not only does the film mark Jeremy Gardner’s debut as director and writer, but he also stars as the rugged Ben alongside newcomer Adam Cronheim portraying the seemingly naïve Mickey. Besides the film’s horror aesthetic, The Battery offers a great tale of two buddies trying to survive the apocalypse. Winner of a handful of audience awards including Toronto’s After Dark Film Festival for Best Feature Film and performing rather successfully on the festival circuit, The Battery offers an endearing tale of friendship and is overwrought with tension.
Set somewhere undisclosed in the deserted countryside of New England, The Battery follows the story of ex-baseball players’ Ben and Mickey as they drift aimlessly through Connecticut. They struggle to survive the savage zombie apocalypse, all the while scavenging for potentially life-saving supplies in an attempt to somehow make this new and cruel way of life as durable as possible.
The Battery showcases the unique visuals of cinematographer Christian Stella, as the film boasts a retro veneer that harks back to classic horrors and thrillers with unbroken long shots of action. The longest shot goes on nearly ten minutes without any music and very little noise; this creates tension and reflects the perturbed and nervous characters. The seeming endlessness of the many unbroken shots is unsettling, leaving the audience waiting for what might jump out. The style is reminiscent of films such as I Am Legend (2007) that imbue an often-overwhelming sense of tension via the cinematography and soundscape. In a particular scene, Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith) searches for his dog Samantha in a thought-to-be deserted and windowless building. The use of darkness combined with silence is chilling to the bone.
In The Battery, the zombies act in a way similar to the undead corpses created by the renowned horror filmmaker George A. Romero. Similar to the Night of the Living Dead (1968) and its sequels, the zombies have slow movements and, although they are easy to kill as single targets, in large numbers, they are a real threat. The special effects make-up and prosthetics that construct the sickly torn and peeling flesh of vile undead is convincing enough for a relatively modest film. The focus, however, is not on the zombie hoards, but rather the human characters’ and their physiological development.
The greatest feat of The Battery is in the relationship between Ben and Mickey. They are certainly very dissimilar to each other, if not polarising character types. Ben has quickly adapted to the woodland environment as the pair are constantly on the move; he is quite capable of slaughtering zombie foes and fishing and scavenging for food. Meanwhile, Mickey refuses to accept the situation and finds solace in muting his fears of the undead via a pair of clunky blue headphones – perhaps not the wisest of decisions during a zombie outbreak. However the apocalypse brings them closer and nurtures the duo's oddball friendship.
Perhaps the most appropriate metaphor for the couple is a battery. Like the batteries used by Mickey for his CD player or those in the walkie-talkies used for communication, Ben believes their polarised relationship works just like a battery. Utilising a battery as emblematic of their relationship is clever in describing the duo because they are a team and their personalities complement each other. They would certainly struggle if they were on their own, but together there is a sense of completeness and unity. This metaphor meaningfully illustrates their friendship because of their dependence on each other.
Whilst the film includes zombie mayhem, The Battery focuses on the two male characters and their ever-progressing development throughout their survival. Considering Gardner’s film was made on a $6,000 budget, the story is incredibly effective and emotional. There have been many zombie films released recently, but The Battery should be watched as very few of these genre films concentrates on such a close and personal relationship as Ben and Mickey’s.