Wednesday 19 March 2014

The Battery (US: 2012: Dir Jeremy Gardner)

The ubiquitousness of the zombie movie and its well worn (but seemingly not worn out) formula have bred such familiarity as to make it a tabula rasa onto which a number of other genres can now be applied. So, using pretty much the same premise each time, we have zombie film as travelogue (MONSTERS, THE DEAD), comedy (SHAUN, WARM BODIES) etc etc.

To which can now be added zombie movie as slacker comedy. THE BATTERY is a road movie of sorts, with two men, Ben and Mickey, whose only bond is that they were once professional baseball players, roaming the countryside in the aftermath of an unspecified apocalypse. That they have little in common apart from their sporting talent and their being virtually alone in the world fuels the comedy of their bickering travels in New England: they are the 'odd couple', always a cinematic winner if handled well. Jeremy Gardner, who wrote, directed and also plays Ben, does a great job of building their characters over the course of the film, and making them a lot more than cast offs from a Kevin Smith script. In grand tradition Ben is rough, a bit dangerous, and does all the zombie killing, while Mickey is more reflective, pining for a lost girl, and squeamish about despatching the living dead. There's a great scene where Ben traps a zombie in a room with Mickey to force his friend to kill it, in a clever subversion of the 'cherry losing' comedy staple. Interestingly the zombies are almost incidental to THE BATTERY, casually killed and almost a nuisance, which is both chilling and amusing.

Even from reading this it won't take a genius to work out the ending, but it's a well handled and poignant finish even while it doesn't depart from the traditional nihilism that usually marks the final reel of the zombie movie. A little too long perhaps, but satisfying, clever, and in places very funny.

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