Overview: Two men survive on forested New England back roads after a zombie apocalypse . Hannah Films; Rated R; 101 Minutes.
An Undead Trend: I know, I know. This zombie thing is… well, it’s a plague. 2013 was a year in which the World War Z film knocked the life out of its masterpiece literary source, and then the gross, mindless popularity of the brutally bad Walking Dead TV series suffocated what hope was left for the zombie impulse. I was sick of it all, too. My interest in the genre was dead. But then there was a resurrection… I should fire myself.
See, more than any other genre films, zombie movies can be charted into two traceable categories: Category A: The young and daring artist(s) who aspire to create and innovate within the loose boundaries of zombie theology. This line moves along through masterpieces from Romero to Max Brooks to Danny Boyle. Category B: Sponsored directors roided up on studio cash doing their best to formulate Category A’s innovation into a trend, pump it full of effects and make-up, and turn profit (Think Walking Dead, Resident Evil, etc). Category B has always been more crowded than Category A, and that is particularly true as of late. But, with a budget of just $7,000 (I could have sold my car, funded this entire movie, and bought another P.O.S. car), The Battery has earned its filmmakers’ entry into that exceptional hall of zombie masters.
Storyline: Two funny, likable guys are surviving in the woods together, just about everyone else is dead, and some of the dead have returned and want to eat the survivors. That’s the plot. The conflict is unforced and unassuming. The two men share a friendship from before the outbreak, but dialogue creates doubt as to whether it was a friendship of sincerity or necessity, adding an extra level of tension to the psychological strain already placed upon them. This movie stares directly and honestly at the trauma, psychosis, and guilt inherent with surviving a global apocalypse, a gaze many zombie films ignore or obscure with insane, high adrenaline story twists (I really do hate Walking Dead). It is through this that we care for the two men (played by writer/director Jeremy Gardner and Adam Cronheim), we will their survival, and feel devastated when it begins to unravel.
Camera: The film offers plenty of open landscape shots and quiet stretches through its first two acts, which help to set up and compress the claustrophobia of the closed-in third and final act, where the elements of true horror cave in on the movie.
Soundtrack: There is a makeshift, improvised element to the music of this movie. With unpolished voices wailing over what sounds like tubs and bones and shovels and strings, these sound like the sort of songs one might be able to piece together out of ruin.
Overall: The Battery defies logic to become the latest masterpiece for a genre that has been starving for this kind of quality for over a decade.