There’ some very funny moments in this slacker zombie film, where our two heroes are travelling aimlessly through the lush New England countryside looking for kicks, trying to stay alive, dealing with boredom, isolation and, well sexual frustration.
So when a zombie in hotpants startles one of our guys while he’ sleeping in a car, as she claws through the half open window, does he grab a gun or a knife and fend her off? No, he grabs his own weapon and begins to take advantage of the situation. To some extent you feel like we’ve been leading up to this moment, that this was the genesis of the whole film. It’s probably due to the sparseness of plotlines up until this point, where much of the film comes from little moments of friction between the two intensely different personalities and montages of the two playing baseball in the woods. In this sense there are links to Gus Van Sant’s exercise in minimalism Gerry, with extended scenes cloaked in music. There is something somehow refreshing about the fact that the zombies exist somewhat on the periphery, and though the aforementioned scene sounds a little silly it’s all approached straight, it’s just one of a few moments of black absurdity that evolve periodically.
Later though the relationship between the ballplayers begins to fray as our earnest zombie stroker, who’ perhaps the more sensitive of the two becomes obsessed by a woman’ voice on the radio and begins to yearn for a more settled life. If anything he’ mourning the life he left behind, to the extent that he’ not present in this one, constantly listening to music on headphones despite the ever present danger.
More odd couple buddy film than horror, it’s a debut feature that apparently cost the filmmakers $6,000 to make possibly because the director, Jeremy Gardner and producer Adam Cranheim play the two ballplayers. Some of the set ups are nothing short of startling, with Gardner actively using the low budget creatively, panning across to reveal bodies after five minutes of inane bickering between the two. The finale in particular is remarkable, possibly the most tense, and adrenalin fuelled of the entire film, yet even this is stretched out paced slowly. There is something fascinating and self-assured about this approach – particularly for a debut filmmaker who you’d expect would normally try and throw everything but the kitchen sink in. At times it feels directionless, yet that’s its aesthetic, and it’s fine, as we’re anchored by the relationship between the two.
The soundtrack, often explicitly linked on screen via the headphones is a slice of Americana indie rock and pop with contributions from Rock Plaza Central, The Parlor, Wise Blood, El Cantador, and Sun Hotel, that fits the gen y slacker aesthetic perfectly.
Highly inventive and self assured, even if it doesn’ always hit its lofty ambitions, The Battery is one of the most inventive and intimate zombie films in recent years.