Monday, October 27, 2014

Scary Movie Month 2014, Day 27

The Battery

Well, it took 27 days of swimming through Andy Dufresne's sewage-choked escape route to get here, but I've finally found this year's Dead & Buried, i.e. the one movie that stands head and shoulders above everything else I saw throughout Scary Movie Month. This is a truly great movie.

Zombies have been overdone to the point where I find myself actively avoiding anything featuring them. I love Romero's original Dead trilogy (yes, even Day, sometimes especially Day) and have affection for a few others like Return of the Living Dead, The Serpent & the Rainbow and Dead Heat (sue me, it's fun), but the amount of terrible zombie movies out there far outweighs the good ones. A lot of people I respect adore The Walking Dead but I tapped out two seasons ago, I found it to be an ugly and repetitive mess like so many other zombie stories (including Romero's later work, unfortunately). When looking for something new to watch, zombie movies are typically going to be toward the bottom of the list.

All that being said, The Battery is terrific, and a refreshing change of pace from the typical zombie fare. The story follows two ex-ballplayers who have managed to survive the first wave of the zombie apocalypse and are now traveling across New England, thrown together more by necessity than friendship. That's not to say there's no camaraderie between them (it could get grating if all they did was bicker like the Blair Witch kids, for example) but there's a tension between them that's always simmering beneath the surface. Both lead performances are strong, they each have moments where they could come off as completely unlikable but they somehow never do, even when making decisions that are not necessarily heroic.

There's a particularly audacious scene late in the movie, a single take that runs somewhere around 10 minutes that is so well staged that I didn't even realize I was holding my breath until I let it out before almost passing out. It was a moment so rare in movies, one where I realized I genuinely had no idea where the movie was going that took a situation I've seen in countless movies and made it feel completely fresh. That alone would have made this movie a win for me, but I found it genuinely engaging from beginning to end and giving me a zombie movie I've never seen before. I'm impressed, and I'm excited about whatever writer-director-star Jeremy Gardner does next.

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