What a sneaky surprise!

I love film and I love it even more when it sneaks up and surprises me with something completely unpredictable and original. Jeremy Gardner’s The Battery, made for only $6,000 and released on video-on-demand outlets as of June 4, 2013, is one of the most surprising endeavors I’ve stumbled upon in months. It’s a free-spirited, “anti-zombie zombie movie,” combining wonderfully played dialog, palpable circumstances, and enough wit and soul to liven an entire franchise of movies. If this is the future of independent horror, I got some serious renting to do.

Gardner, who directed, wrote, and produced the film, stars as Ben, traveling down the back-roads of Connecticut with Mickey (Adam Cronheim), both of whom were once ballplayers. Their polar-opposite personalities and resistance of closeness and bonding tells us they weren’t the two sitting next to each other at the bar when they celebrated a win. Ben and Mickey are traveling the back-roads in an attempt to flee the zombie apocalypse and find adequate shelter.

I’ll interrupt myself by saying that I use the phrase “zombie apocalypse” loosely; very loosely. Gardner is smart to shove the undead to the background, while the relationship and humanity of Ben and Mickey proudly takes the foreground here. While both men may not be the best of friends, neither would’ve gotten far without the help of each other. Mickey is petrified of “zombies” (I put the word in quotes since the only time the word is uttered is reluctantly and hesitantly indicating the overusing of it in recent times) and leaves all the killing and maiming to Ben, who likely would’ve went insane without the companionship.

The device used to unite the men are Mickey’s headphones, which do different things both both men. Mickey uses them to temporarily close out the world around them; he employs them when he is frazzled or nervous about the dubious times. Ben uses them as a lighter form of escapism, cheerily dancing to Rock Plaza Central’s “Anthem for the Already Defeated,” making for one of the best scenes in the entire picture.

The Battery works so well because it doesn’t try to be just another film capitalizing off of the incredibly childish, overblown idea of a zombie apocalypse, which would be much easier to do in the wake of The Walking Dead and World War Z. An “anti-zombie zombie movie” is the perfect way to describe this picture. Despite placing emphasis on the undead, the film’s focus is on the living, making for a very realistic, pragmatic take on a relationship that may come through during such an abhorrent event.

With sun-soaked cinematography by Christian Stella, capturing the woodsy atmosphere and the sweltering climate of the wilderness and vastly open plains of grass and wheat better than any films I’ve seen in recent years and a soundtrack composed of delightful but not cliche indie rock tunes, aesthetically, The Battery has it all to a tee. This is certainly one of the best looking films of the year, as well. While this is Gardner’s first formal outing, he conducts it like an incomparable professional, staging shots that are tricky and clean, making use of a setting for more than twenty minutes, and even holding on one continuous shot for eleven minutes. None of this is boring, by the way. The final act takes place entirely in a van and is one of the most intimate, realistic exchange between two characters I’ve seen in a film like this, mainly because the conversations and exchange of thought it so typical and atypical to the situation. Regardless, the film is wholly unpredictable and that’s one of the highest compliments I can pay to a film.

Stories like Ben and Mickey’s are far more interesting than redundant survivalist drama in the wake of an apocalypse or a subversive yet lukewarm look at zombie romanticism. If we’re past the point of ques and cinematic semantics and are formally referring to the The Battery as a horror film than this is, by far, the best horror film of 2013. It certainly is one of the best dramas of the year as well. And comedies. And action films. And thrillers. And satires. And films in general.

Starring: Jeremy Gardner and Adam Cronheim. Directed by: Jeremy Gardner.
Grade: A-
Reviewed by Steve Pulaski

Read more of Steve’s Reviews at: http://stevethemovieman.proboards.com