I have watched a number of really good recent genre movies this year and I am excited by the new generation of filmmakers that is emerging. People like Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin), Justin Benson/Aaron Moorhead (Spring), Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun), Eric England (Contracted), and Adam Wingard (You're Next) come to mind and give me hope for a bright future for the genre as these guys are just getting started. Jeremy Gardner can be added to the list as The Battery is yet another example of someone taking the genre in an interesting new direction by finding ways to be creative with a limited budget and knowing that solid characters and a good script are the foundations of great moviemaking. He also has a knack for choosing great music to accompany the images making this the first film since the heyday of Paul Thomas Anderson where I have been keenly aware of the role that music can play in a film.
In addition to writing and directing, Gardner also stars in this flick as Ben, a baseball player who has found himself wandering around in rural America with his teammate Mickey (Adam Cronheim) after a zombie apocalypse has rendered most of humanity obsolete. The two of them do their best to entertain themselves with Mickey losing himself in the tunes on his portable CD player while Ben embraces the survivalist role that has become his reality. These two very different approaches to coping with the situation create animosity at times but the characters have also come to rely on each other for companionship despite their differences. After hearing that there may be other survivors, Mickey embraces the hope that this provides while Ben is cynical and dismissive. They eventually find themselves in an impossible situation and contemplate how to survive despite what has happened.
As with some of the other movies mentioned in the opening paragraph, this is another movie that is best watched without knowing too much about the plot hence my vague summary. Yes, this is a zombie movie but it is a unique take that is far from the action heroics of "The Walking Dead" and more of a low-key affair of what it would be like if two young dudes found themselves walking around a densely populated area of New England. There would not be a lot to do and finding ways to occupy the days without getting killed would be challenging as would the notion of being chained at the hip with a person that you were thrown into the situation with. That being said, the movie is very compelling and I never found my mind wandering thanks to the characters being realistic given the circumstances. It doesn't hurt that the performances by Garder and Cronheim are stellar.
When I see a first-time director put him or herself in the lead role, it is often a cause for concern but Gardner clearly knows exactly what he is doing and pulls off the task like a pro. This is clearly his baby as he wrote the script and obviously had the whole thing planned out. The pacing is slow but steady and there are a number of long takes and music montages spread throughout with a few memorable set pieces placed at perfect moments to amp up the tension. There are some unanswered questions but these plot points are addressed in a way that could either lead to spirited discussions between fans of the film or could possibly be explored in a sequel that could reveal more of the world in which these two live (I'm hoping for the latter). I will admit that there are a couple of moments where I questioned the credibility of the actions of one or both of the characters but seeing as though I have never lived through a zombie infestation, it is a little difficult for me to pass judgement although I did find the final confrontation to be completely avoidable. Minor criticism aside, if you have ever wanted to make a movie and are looking for inspiration as to what can be done with limited resources, look no further because this is an example of taking the basic elements and making them your own. (Josh Pasnak, 11/15/15)
Directed By: Jeremy Gardner.
Written By: Jeremy Gardner.
Starring: Jeremy Gardner, Adam Cronheim, Niels Bolle, Alana O'Brien.