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Battery, The
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by Jay Seaver

"A zombie drama that's a couple levels short of the major leagues."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2013 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There's a case to be made for "The Battery", although it involves an premise that I'm not hugely fond of - that the filmmakers aren't really making a zombie movie, but exploring the bond and antagonism that form between two men thrown together by chance, and that survivors of the zombie apocalypse is just the hook. I suppose you could say that it does what it's looking to do fairly well, The question, then, is whether this is a story worth telling.

Maybe if World War Z had been adapted as an anthology television series as it arguably should have been, this would have made a nice hour-long entry. It follows two independent-league baseball players - pitcher Mickey (Adam Cronheim) and catcher Ben (Jeremy Gardner), who have been making their way across New England ever since the outbreak. Mickey's the lean one in a state of denial; Ben is bearded, husky, and taking to the new abnormal surprisingly well. They're in Connecticut now, practiced at avoiding attacks, but thrown a curve when they hear another voice on the walkie-talkies they use to communicate.

The standard play, perhaps, would be for Mickey & Ben to meet up with the seemingly organized group and discover that they're better off just trusting each other, but the other group says they don't want other people and they mean it. As a result, Ben & Mickey tend to find themselves at the edges of bigger stories that might have made for the plot of a fine story-based zombie movie but wind up being less of a focus here. It's an approach that allows for some good moments between the characters, but can also allow the movie drag at points, most egregiously the end. That end is rather frustrating, both in "we're leading up to this?" terms and requiring a certain lack of common sense to get there.

Given that The Battery is about the pair and how they relate to each other, how Jeremy Gardner and Adam Cronheim work off each other is what the movie will live and die with. Interestingly, and perhaps fortunately, Gardner and Cronheim turn out to be better as a team than either is alone. Cronheim tends to just a few morose notes as Mickey, and Gardner just doesn't seem to come alive on the relatively few scenes when Ben is on his own. When they're together, though, there's a good mix of familiarity and contempt; they push and pull at each other just the way they should. For much of the movie, they make up the entire non-zombie cast, although Alana O'Brien and Niels Bolle are memorable when they appear.

It's worth noting that this movie has some of the least-scary zombies even by slow-zombie standards, with very little make-up in many cases (and I'm not sure that a certain memorable moment when Mickey's response to being near the undead is rather unconventional makes that a positive). As much as the idea might be to keep the focus on the still-living characters, it winds up a bit of a distraction, calling attention to what the movie can't do. Otherwise, it's a nice-looking movie; writer/director/star Jeremy Gardner makes good use of his New England locations, both because they look good and because they fit the story. He does a fine job of making something intriguing from very little, keeping the movie from feeling like a thin idea padded to feature length.

As well as Gardner, Cronheim, and company do more than one might expect with just a little, they haven't made a particularly scary horror movie or a superlative character piece; the last act also spends a lot of what goodwill they had saved up. The pitch for this movie looks good, but but it doesn't quite find the mitt.

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originally posted: 10/04/13 13:29:19
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Jeremy Gardner

Written by
  Jeremy Gardner

  Jeremy Gardner
  Adam Cronheim
  Niels Bolle
  Alana O’Brien

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