The Battery (2012)

The Battery first published by

The Battery opens with a low-angle medium shot of Mickey (Adam Cronheim) standing in front of a house, smoking while listening to Wise Blood’s B.I.G. E.G.O.on his headphones. With his baggy shorts, crisp clean yellow T-shirt and styled goatee, Mickey is the very picture of a young, fresh-faced college hipster – and when the music stops and Mickey sits on the stoop by a pair of backpacks to change the batteries on his portable CD payer, one might imagine that this explains the film’s title. In a way it does – and the notion of batteries running down and on empty also serves as an apt organising metaphor in writer/director Jeremy Gardner’s feature debut. For despite Mickey’s casual posture, The Battery offers post-apocalyptic survival horror – as is made clear when a panicked Ben (Gardner) suddenly bursts out of the house, firing his pistol back behind him through the door, and retrieving from the porch both his backpack and the bloody baseball bat concealed behind it. 

That bat provides both the common link between these two men, and another explanation of the film’s title. For Ben and Mickey, who are otherwise like chalk and cheese, happened to be playing on the same baseball team in Pittsfield, Massachusetts when the zombie outbreak began, and have been together ever since – previously trapped for three long months in a beleaguered Pittsfield house, and now on the move in the wide-open backwoods of Connecticut. Here, very few zombies actually feature – at least until the claustrophobic closing act – and so The Battery is a brooding, often funny buddy pic, allowing viewers to hang out with this odd couple and to savour the contrasts between them. 

Where Mickey is clean-cut, reluctant to kill and clinging to the values and the detritus (a winning lottery ticket, a pair of his ex’s underwear) from his past, Ben is bearded and unkempt, actively enjoys taking out zombies (even when it is not strictly necessary), and fully accepting of the present circumstances and the likely future. Where Mickey keeps wanting to stop, to rest, to stay, Ben insists that they keep in motion, “like sharks”. “You’re a romantic, I’m a realist,” Ben tells Mickey, “It’s ok. Probably going to get you killed, though. It’s like those fucking headphones.” For indeed, while Mickey may constantly pump music into his ears as an escape from present realities as well as from Ben, in insulating himself from the world he also exposes himself all the more to its dangers, still very much there and always creeping up behind whether heard or not.  

Auditory senses are important in The Battery. For while the pair may not have seen any other living people for months, they certainly hear them over the radio. Mickey is sex-starved, in one scene pitifully masturbating to a young female zombie who is separated from him only by a half-closed car window and who pushes her breasts against the glass in her desperation to get at him. So when Mickey hears a female voice over the airwaves, naturally his interests are aroused. Eventually, the trouble that Ben suggests this will bring comes crashing down on them, leading to a long final sequence in which once more the baseball players find themselves straitened and surrounded. As Mickey, in typical form, tries to blot the presence of the zombies out, the film’s focus remains on these human characters, ever faced with the same old dilemma – stay put or keep going. Eventually their forward momentum must, like the energy stored in a battery, run out, but until it does, they will keep on racing from base to base, in a circle getting nowhere, as their own mortality closes in. As metaphors for life go, it’s a potent one – bleak, but retaining a spark of hope. 

Summary: Jeremy Gardner’s feature debut reduces the zombie apocalypse to an edgy buddy pic

© Anton Bitel