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Fantasia: Jeremy Gardner moves beyond typical zombies

Screen checks out the micro-budget zombie road movie The Battery, which received its Québec premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival.

We know what you’re thinking. Did we really need another film about zombies? Well, let us be clichéd for a second and say that The Battery is not your ordinary zombie apocalypse film.

Receiving its Québec premiere yesterday [July 21] at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival, The Battery is effectively a two-hander following Mickey (Adam Cronheim) and Ben (Jeremy Gardner) as they aim to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

Boasting some beautiful cinematography from Christian Stella and a terrific soundtrack, the film is admirably bold in its choices such as setting the entire third act within the confines of a car, including an almost dialogue-free extended nine-minute scene.

And given it’s a zombie film, you’ll need to look elsewhere for entrails and gore – tellingly the word itself isn’t used until the third act. Instead it showcases the banalities of a post-apocalyptic world, including the simple pleasure garnered from being able to brush your teeth.

During the post-screening Q&A, the film’s director Gardner (who also wrote and produced the film, as well as starring in it) joked about the development of the film, which stemmed from Gardner’s audition tape Perkins’ 14, part of an After Dark movie series: “I realised we could probably make a very cheap zombie movie if we didn’t put any zombies in it, and we just stayed in the woods and talked for a while.”

The majority of shooting taking place on a 200 acre decommissioned girl scout camp in upper state Connecticut, a decision that had its ups and downs.

“When it comes to a zombie movie when it’s the end of the world, no electricity and no outside sounds, as far as we could get away from humans, the better the ‘production value’ of the movie would be,” noted Stella, before Gardner added “it’s rough because you think it’s going to be easy… then you go ‘shit, we’re in the middle of nowhere’.”

With a budget of $6,000, there had to be some consequences. One of the key sequences towards the end of the film sees the two protagonists holed up in a car when a siege of zombies approach. Creative thinking was called for.

Gardner explained: “We only had the extras for one day too, so when we realised we had 47 pages to shoot, we thought ‘what are we going to do?’ and decided to put blankets on the windows and pretend the zombies are still there.”

It pays off. The final act is increasingly tense and magnetic, with a pay-off that was inspired by one of Gardner’s favourite films, Children of Men – “the fact that it ends when you want it to start was beautiful” – but could have ended differently if Stella and the film’s editors (Michael Katzman and Alicia Stella) had their way.

Without stepping into spoiler territory, one of the original climactic shots showcased more detail while still ending the same way. Budgetary constraints again proved the issue with a “beautiful” shot somewhat tarnished by a horde of zombies that unfortunately only totalled 32 undead.

The shot was cut in favour of something a touch more ambiguous, and it’s hard to fault Gardner’s logic: “I’d rather be disappointed that I didn’t get to see something, than be underwhelmed by it.”

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