Film

'The Battery' Is a First Act in Search of a Plot

Amounting to one feature-length inciting incident, the low-budget zombie film The Battery will test the limits of even the most devoted horror fans’ patience.


The Battery

Director: Jeremy Gardner
Cast: Jeremy Gardner, Adam Cronheim, Niels Bolle, Alana O'Brien
Distributor: Shout! Factory
Studio: O. Hannah Films
UK Release Date: N/A
US Release Date: 2014-09-16

Films that go by the moniker of “post-apocalyptic” generally go to some effort to stir the imaginations of their audience by suggesting drama in the past. The setting, usually adorned with wreckage, sunken landmarks, burned-out dwellings, wastelands that still bear the names of major cities, can supplement a slower pace or even a weak screenplay, as viewers get to not just anticipate what will happen to the characters before them, but also what has already happened to them. In many cases, this is a more rewarding process than the actual development of the film’s narrative, which helps to make genre cinema seem livelier than it often is. At the very least, the current market for independent horror and science fiction films provides a factory for the development of new scares, new speculative concepts, and a means of exhibiting them to the public.

So a film like The Battery -- made for only a few thousand dollars -- is a puzzling thing to take stock of. The film offers no pleasures of craft save for the minimal zombie makeup and soundtrack featuring evocative folk songs by Rock Plaza Central and Wise Blood. Here, we have nothing like a post-apocalyptic landscape. Instead of an earth-clearing event having taken place, it appears that everyone save the two roaming protagonists simply got up and cleared out of the way. Most of the time you can almost sense humanity hovering just out of the frame, waiting for someone to call “cut” so that they can resume their places, once the actors have finished reciting their lines in the middle of a field.

Director Jeremy Gardner plays Ben, traveling the New England countryside with friend and former baseball teammate Mickey (Adam Cronheim) in the aftermath of an unspecified but all-too-familiar event that unleashed the zombie virus on the world. Between bored spats with the undead, they play catch and snipe at each other. If they were ever indeed close friends on their team, circumstances seem to have eroded their relationship. Mickey tinkers with a walkie-talkie that occasionally picks up the voice of a woman named Annie, who warns him not to find her and her group, but who might represent their only chance of finding shelter and safety.

The stakes remain pretty low; how urgent could it be for these two to find an organized group of survivors, since (at least until the final sequence) the zombies are isolated, minor threats easily dispatched with the swing of a baseball bat, and Ben and Mickey never really run short of supplies or country homes to stop over in? Ben has serious concerns about staying the night in a strange house, alluding to some violent encounter in their past, but the languid mood of the film and his reasonable demeanor keeps even this episode from achieving any power in the audience’s mind.

It’s during the first of the film’s two or three truly dramatic confrontations -- in which Ben takes a dangerous approach to curing Mickey of his aversion to violence -- that the deflating sense of the film’s opening scene becomes a dominant mood, and The Battery’s crippling lack of resources becomes apparent. Low budgets are surmountable in genre cinema with good casting, performances, and writing, variables that don’t demand a boost in the budget. Gardner and Cronheim, obviously committed to the project, swing not between moods but volumes, from mumbly guy-talk to shouty, vein-throbbing fury. Neither of them are truly bad performers, but the strain of these few scenes of conflict shows in their expressionless eyes and brows.

Not to mention that Gardner’s screenplay shortchanges Mickey’s character, who seems to be the more interesting and troubled of the two men, in favor of an ending that promises to set up a whole new set of conflicts. It’s the sort of development that should have come fifteen or twenty minutes into the picture and triggered two further acts of complication. Instead, it has to bear the weight of paying off the previous ninety minutes, and winds up bizarrely dissatisfying, tainting what minimal interest the project had to begin with.

The barebones plot of The Battery raises only minimal questions: the sustainability of male camaraderie in the face of truly hostile circumstances, or whether certain persons, all other physical variables being equal, have a stronger natural predilection toward survival. Moreover, these questiosn are ultimately subsumed by the worst tendency of low-budget filmmaking: how long can we drag this out? As unfinished as the dramatic arc of the screenplay feels, Gardner’s film practically demands to be viewed as a pitch for a higher budget, and a more satisfying feature to come. But that’s no way to watch a film, and no fit state to release it.

Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray of The Battery comes with an improbably feature-length documentary detailing the film’s production in encyclopedic detail, serving as further evidence of the kind of confounding enthusiasm necessary to see a half-formed project like this through to its conclusion. It also includes, by way of making the purchase worth small consideration, footage of a live performance by Rock Plaza Central, a great band whose presence on the soundtrack is welcome.

4
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.