Not many films can boast to have been written, produced, directed by and starring an individual, but with his debut feature Jeremy Gardner has managed that feat, and while his tale of two survivors of a low key zombie apocalypse trying to make the best of their lives as they trek across the deserted New England countryside is fortunately far from Ed Wood, nor will it trouble the throne of Citizen Kane.
While a beautiful travelogue of rural Americana filmed in vivid colours accompanied by a brilliant soundtrack, the hour and forty minute running time of The Battery contains insufficient incident to fill even half that time as Ben and Mickey make their way from one conspicuously neat abandoned property to the next, taking what they can find to assist them before hitting the road again. Encounters with the undead, slow, dumb and unthreatening, are infrequent, hints of other survivors almost entirely absent.
When an overheard broadcast on a walkie talkie alerts them to the presence of an outpost nearby, Mickey desperately reaches out to Annie over the airwaves despite the threatening voice of the mysterious Frank warning them not to try to track them, an admonishment supported by Ben, but Mickey persists.
Told almost entirely with the focus on these two characters, the contrast between the romantic Mickey and the realise Ben should drive the film, but producer Adam Cronheim is no actor and he is unable to make his barely written character more than an object which clutters the screen, locked inside his headphones in an effort to keep the changed world outside and constantly complaining about the situation they are in.
As Ben, Gardner is more interesting to watch, dealing with the situation as best he can while all the time with a ticking anger within, both at the situation and Mickey’s refusal to engage, but in what is ostensibly a slacker buddy movie the dialogue should be alternate between sharp and witty and warm and moving, yet in the most telling moment Mickey confesses to the distant Annie that he and Ben are not friends, they just played baseball together before happenstance that threw them together, and this gap between them, and the audience, is never bridged.
It is only in the final act that events expand beyond the two men, an occurrence that should have taken place much earlier and propelled the story to a more direct and dramatic conclusion, though that may have required budget and resources beyond the modest production which deserves recognition simply for achieving as much as it does. As it is, the end of the world is neither whisper nor bang but the groans of the hungry undead banging on the windows.
Dead by Dawn has now concluded for 2013, but will return in 2014