Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2013: The Battery

Last year, I wrote about After Dark 2012 selection Resolution and its amazing handling of a small, lo-fi story with a very big idea. Using extremely minimal resources and only a small handful of actors, Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson's meta-horror managed to have the same effect on me and left me feeling as confounded as Joss Whedon's Cabin In The Woods. This year, After Dark has programmed The Battery, a film that, again, uses a small handful of actors to tell a big story. What Resolution does for Cabin In The Woods, The Battery does for The Walking Dead or The Road, and, as if that's not enough, the film boasts one of the best soundtracks you're likely to hear all year.

In baseball terms, a 'battery' refers to the pitcher and the catcher, always communicating and working in tandem. Ben (writer/director Jeremy Gardner with a special supporting cast mention for his unbelievable but very real beard) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim) form such a battery, but one rife with dysfunction.  They are the last surviving members of a baseball team, slowly moving across the New England setting in a world decimated by zombies.

Now, it's important to realize that this movie was made for a minuscule sum of $6000, all of which Gardner cobbled together from donations from his family and friends. You're not going to see any large-scale World War Z zombie attacks or elaborate set pieces here, but I'd be frankly shocked if you miss any of them by the time the film wraps up. Instead, Gardner makes the brave (and cheaper!) choice to focus on the relationship between Ben and Mickey and its many layers, rather than action-filled zombie attacks, and The Battery is the better film for it.

Ben and Mickey, like the two poles in that other kind of battery, are complete opposites.  Mickey is relatively clean-cut and constantly pouting while Ben looks like a hobo (or pro wrestler Daniel Bryan) and is always game to make the best of a bad situation. Ben simply wants to keep moving and not expose the pair to the ever-increasing danger approaching from all sides (there's a great exchange about why this is necessary which would make for perfect prequel fodder, should Gardner find himself with another six grand) while Mickey is clearly sick of constant travelling and wants to stay in one place.

Ben acts as a mentor or even parent to Mickey, who has never killed a zombie and is incredibly detached from the predicament the pair are in, despite clearly having been a part of this world for quite a while by the beginning of the movie. This can make Ben seem overbearing and certainly annoying at first, though there's definitely a pragmatism behind his scolding that Mickey clearly lacks. Mickey's ever-present headphones insulate him from the horrific reality he faces, to Ben's chagrin, and logistically leaves him open to potential surprise attacks. He's the kid in the back seat, constantly asking "are we there yet" as Ben all but threatens to turn the car around.

The shots of the New England landscape are truly stunning, expertly handled by Christian Stella. The grimy, bleak aesthetic of most zombie films and The Walking Dead is eschewed here for long takes of orchards, suburban homes, and a clear sky. Coupled with a fantastic soundtrack with music from Toronto band Rock Plaza Central, Pittsburgh's Wise Blood, and New York State's The Parlor, all delivered through Mickey's headphones in lieu of a traditional score, Gardner creates a believable world with just the slightest hint of whimsy. Seriously, if you can stop yourself from playing Rock Plaza Central's "Anthem For The Already Defeated" more than once, I'll eat my hat.

Now, the film I'm describing probably doesn't sound much like a horror on its face. There are no jump scares, very little gore, and, to be honest, not a lot of zombies in The Battery. Gardner basically does everything a traditional zombie movie doesn't, which is not only incredibly brave, but truly refreshing to me. By focusing on the characters and executing a perfect push-pull of hope and hopelessness as Mickey and Ben traverse this ruined landscape, never taking the cheap way out, Gardner forces the fear to come from you, the viewer, rather than some tired trope or gore take. If you're looking for a movie to watch with your friend or significant other that absolutely hates (or is simply burned out on, as I am) the traditional zombie film, plug yourself into The Battery and let it take you for a ride.


The 2013 Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs from October 17th to 25th. You can find ticket and lineup information at the official site here.

Photo: Jeremy Gardner (and beard) and Adam Cronheim star in The Battery, my favourite baseball/zombie intersection this year.

This review was written by Sachin Hingoo, a freelance writer when he is not working at an office job that is purpose-built for paying the bills while he works as a freelance writer. His writing has appeared on, the CBC Street Level Blog,, and The Midnight Madness Blog for the Toronto International Film Festival. He has also been featured at Toronto lecture series Trampoline Hall (which is rumored to be excellent). His mutant power is 'feigning interest'. You can read all of his posts here.


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