The Battery: A Different Sort of Zombie Film
Much like Park Chan-wook's 2009 vampire movie Thirst, The Battery utterly redefines how a zombie movie should feel and what it should be.
For those unfamiliar and uninitiated to Thirst, it's a vampire film where vampires aren't quite the point. Most genre films tend to focus on the setting as a part of the plot. From Daybreakers and Blade to the Russian film Nightwatch, vampire movies tend to focus on vampirism as more than just a setting- it's a plot device and a plot focus. It even reaches the levels of being a theme in the film. Predators and prey. Thirst subverted nearly all of this. While the main character is a priest who becomes a vampire of sorts, that fact is nearly irrelevant to the film.
The story, which I'll avoid spoiling, is never about how scary vampires are. It's about how terrifying utter and absolute passion is. The vampirism is merely dressing on a meaty Greek tragedy. The horror is never derived from "OH SHIT VAMPIRES GONNA GET THAT DUDE". No, it's derived from a man being led into forbidden romance and not knowing how to stop.
Thirst might be a much more high profile movie than The Battery will ever be, but they both do the same thing with the plots. The Battery, as I mentioned in the lede, is set in a post-apocalyptic zombie world. Granted, the zombies are more Shaun of the Dead than 28 Days Later, but they're bad enough that the whole world's gone to shit. This is standard fare for zombie films of course. Empty houses, abandoned cars, figurative tumbleweeds rolling down the street.
What isn't standard fare is making the zombies, for 90% of the movie, nothing but window dressing. There's no horror. There are no scares. Even Thirst, which avoided vampire based scares still embraced horror itself to an extent. The Battery eschews all of that for intense one on one character drama between Mickey and Ben, two ball players who manage to survive the initial zombie onslaught. It's a film that's simultaneously about loneliness and brotherhood. It's a zombie movie that manages to ignore the fact that there are zombies for a vast majority of the film and, rather than suffering for it, succeeds because of it.
The cinematography is excellent, and the director Jeremy Gardner uses longer shots (both distance and temporal length) to his advantage, emphasizing the physical and emotional lonesomeness of the characters.
While I started comparing The Battery to Thirst, I'd like to end by contrasting it with another recent indie(ish) zombie movie: Warm Blood. Warm Blood embraced zombie tropes and concepts happily and whole-heartedly to tell a nice warming (ahem) story. The Battery avoids all of them to tell a story that hurts more than most horror movies could ever hope. It might be set in a zombie world, but it's hardly a horror film— and that's what makes it excel.
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