Fantasia Fest Review: THE BATTERY Trades Zombie Scares For Heartfelt Drama

This is NOT the post-apocalyptic baseball film you were hoping for.

The Battery already has a fair amount of people advocating it as a great micro budget horror drama. Despite looking and acting like a lot of other indie films, you can easily see why it might raise some enthusiasm. Writer and director Jeremy Gardner underplays the catchy zombie angle just enough to make the meaty relationship at the film's core feel meaningful and sincere. But he doesn't ignore the zombies, either. Old Joy fans who roll their eyes at zombie films and horror fans who roll their eyes at Old Joy both get to leave the theater in perfect entertainment harmony.

Despite its minuscule budget (apparently around $6,000), The Battery achieves surprisingly bright and crisp visuals. Very little betrays how little Gardner had to work with. The film pulls off a lot of ponderous gimmicks (montages, long long long takes where nothing happens), but its themes are so concrete that long passages illustrating the malaise and boredom of surviving a zombie apocalypse without direction serve the film's greater point and therefore get a pass, though that doesn't make them any easier to weather.

The story involves two baseball players who have somehow survived the opening wave of a zombie apocalypse. By the time we meet them, they're long used to the situation. Pragmatic Ben takes care of all the zombie killing and pretty much any other life necessities. His buddy Mickey is way more sensitive about the whole thing. He blocks out their situation with headphones and generally has a much more difficult time confronting the horrors around him.

Still, they're good pals. The entire film's foundation relies of the strength of this friendship. If stars Jeremy Gardner and Adam Cronheim failed to provide chemistry, The Battery would crash and burn in its opening moments. Luckily, the relationship here is a success. With that secure, the film can afford to just sit around a bit and marvel at their interactions with each other, both big and small.

There isn't a ton of plot. For much of the movie, we simply witness how these two guys live day to day and learn about the mechanics of their relationship. This isn't a very exciting film, but they don't have very exciting lives. Zombies have ended civilization as we know it, but they supply The Battery with only a casual menace. Every once in a while, the characters run into one and have to cave in its head. But for the most part, The Battery is about two guys fishing and playing catch.

Not everything can last, however, and The Battery's plot gains new direction when Mickey finds a female survivor with whom he can communicate via walkie-talkie. Though she ultimately rebuffs him, her very presence greatly exasperates the seed of discontent already growing within his spirit. In a roundabout way, this leads to the film's truly remarkable and moving third act.

The Battery has a lot to say and says it well. Some of the acting is dodgy, and the pop culture references are a little cute for their own good, but it never betrays its setup or themes. If nothing else, it introduces Jeremy Gardner as a filmmaker worth your attention.

The Battery is an official selection of the 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival. The film is also available on iTunes and Amazon.