The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Battery

There's a moment about fifteen minutes into The Battery where I knew it was going to be something really different. In the middle of a zombie apocalypse, a man returns to the house of the woman he was dating before everything got crazy. She's not there, and is presumably dead. He sits on her bed, next to her teddy bear. Then he opens her dresser drawer, finds a pair of her underpants, and gently sniffs them. A bottle of perfume is on top of the dresser. He sprays some into the air, smelling that, too. Finally, he wraps the perfume up in the underwear and leaves. Rather than coming off as skeezy, the scene has a certain sad poignancy, because we'd miss that kind of intimate connection with someone else in a zombie apocalypse, wouldn't we? The Battery is another zombie movie, but it's not just another zombie movie. It has a fresh, very human take on a familiar horror subject.

The story follows two former baseball players, Ben (played by writer/director Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim). They aren't really friends, just former teammates who somehow survived together. It's obvious that their partnership is based more on mutual need than on affection; the introspective Mickey is perpetually frustrated by Ben's callousness. The two journey through the back roads and forests of New England trying to survive. Mickey thinks they'd be smart to hole up somewhere, but Ben insists that to stop moving is to die. Although there are a few zombie attacks, the real horror explored in The Battery is the thought of being stuck in some sort of catastrophe with someone you neither like nor fully trust.

The movie has a lot of human-specific scenes based on that idea. The two leads argue about how to survive, whether or not it's okay to kill the undead, and what their long-term strategy will be. As a filmmaker, Gardner uses this notion to build tension. Whereas on The Walking Dead (a show these characters reference) people survive by banding together, The Battery depicts how lack of a unified front opens the door for increased jeopardy. Mickey doesn't trust Ben not to lead them into danger, but going out on his own would leave him equally, if not more, vulnerable. In addition to scenes showing how the guys long for life the way it used to be, the movie creates a palpable sense of the fear they are facing as they stare into an uncertain future.

Gardner and Cronheim are both good in their roles, but even better together. They create a tenuous, believable bond between the characters, one that veers from pseudo-trust to complete animosity to, eventually, an inescapable need to rely on each other after getting stuck in a situation from which there may be no escape. Again, the human element is at the center of the story, so the performances are crucial.

The Battery could have used a little judicious editing. Some scenes tend to go on much longer than they need to. Nowhere is this more evident than in a static, unbroken ten-minute shot near the end. At about the four-minute mark, the point of the scene is made crystal clear and its impact fully felt. Then it goes on for another six minutes and you start thinking about how long the shot is rather than what it's trying to convey. A couple of music montages could have safely been trimmed, too. In spite of those things, The Battery remains an engaging and thoughtful work of horror, one that admirably puts carnage in the back seat so that something more emotional/humane can do the driving. This is a solid debut for Jeremy Gardner, as well as a promise of good things to come.

( out of four)

Blu-Ray Features:

The Battery comes to Blu-Ray on Sept. 16, courtesy of Scream Factory. There is a nice series of bonus material on the disc, including audio commentary from Gardner, Cronheim, and producer/director of photography Christian Stella.

“Tools of Ignorance: The Making of The Battery” is a 90-minute feature about the production of the film (which itself runs 100 minutes). As you can imagine, it's incredibly comprehensive, detailing just about everything you could want to know about making this low-budget horror movie, which cost only $6,000.

A separate segment looks at the music of the film. Music is vital to The Battery, as certain scenes are scored with songs specifically designed to add to the ambiance. This is a nice feature about how important music can be in a movie.

An outtake reel and the theatrical trailer are also included.

Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are excellent. Scream Factory largely releases older horror films, primarily from the '70s and '80s. Once in a while, though, they release something newer, and when they do, it's almost always special. The Battery is no exception. If you think you've seen everything that can be done in zombie cinema, think again.

For more information on this title, please visit the Scream Factory website.

The Battery is unrated, but contains adult language, nudity, and violence. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.

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