Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its fourth year in October! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down to my favorite horror film released since last October and covered in this here AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days that aren’t toothless remakes or watered down sequels. Theaters just don’t seem to be the place where the horror is at these days, I’m sad to say. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video on Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay pr digital download.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st , 2012 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column four years ago!) and worked and reworked a list until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each column for those who can’t get enough horror which may include films that almost made the list or goodies from the past I’ve covered.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
I’ve touted THE BATTERY as one of the best of the year and that’s why I’ve been keeping the number 4 spot warm for it. Though its low budget, the film offers up ten times the zombie scares and thrills that WWZ ever wishes it could have. If you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to zombie films, seek out THE BATTERY for the freshest take on zombies in years!
THE BATTERY (2013)Available for download here
Directed by Jeremy Gardner
Written by Jeremy Gardner
Starring Jeremy Gardner, Adam Cronheim, Niels Bolle
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
There are those who hear that a film is about vampires or zombies or found footage and immediately write them off. Sure, those folks are protecting themselves from scores of pretty bad films, but by doing so, you miss out on the occasional gem to come along and really tell a new and original story involving one of these subgenres. Sure, I have to watch a bunch of crappy vampire films, but if I didn't I would have overlooked KISS OF THE DAMNED (reviewed here). If I'd have turned up my nose to all found footage films, I would have cheated myself out of seeing the surprisingly fun THE DINOSAUR PROJECT (reviewed here). And had I turned a blind eye to all zombie films, I would have missed my favorite zombie film of the year, THE BATTERY.
THE BATTERY's genius lies in its simplicity. Peel back the rotted, decayed layers and you'll see at its core, it's a movie about friendship--a strong friendship between two guys who just happen to be wandering around in a world infested with zombies. Though the first moments begin with a literal bang, quite a bit of the film consists of the quiet time showing the highs, the lows, the differences, the embarrassing moments, and all of the complexities of friendship. Because who would you rather spend the zombie apocalypse with other than your best friend?
Not to get too schmaltzy, but this is the type of film that really highlights the importance of friendship and illustrates it well by placing two friends in the most dire of circumstances. Though one might think these two characters--star/writer/director Jeremy Gardner (who plays the free-wheeling Ben) and actor Adam Cronheim (who plays Mickey, the more uptight one), would tear each other's throats out since they are as different as can be in the way they approach this zombie plague, this Odd Couple of the Apocalypse work well together. The title of the film is explained later as the two friends, exact opposites, act as a battery, positive and negative charges looking out for one another or in baseball terms (a sport they both love) someone throwing the ball and another one catching it. Throughout the film both of their personalities prove crucial in their survival as Ben keeps things fun in order to retain their sanity and Mickey being neurotically careful making every one of their moves.
A film such as this, which relies on quite a bit of conversation and interaction, would not be able to hold water if the performances weren't good. Fortunately, both Gardner and Cronheim do a fantastic job in making things feel as if they have been friends forever. Gardner especially does a great job here and is given the most emotional turmoil to go through as the story goes on. Gardner's Ben also gets to show off his dancing skills as he lets off steam to some of the fantastic music from Mickey's music collection. This soundtrack works itself in and out of the narrative, sometimes lightening the mood, sometimes offering the perfect time for a release of tension, and other times illustrating a haunting overtone. Gardner peppers in fantastic tunes from Rock Plaza Central, The Parlor, Wise Blood, El Cantador, and Sun Hotel which I immediately downloaded after hearing in the film (something I rarely do).
What sets THE BATTERY ahead of the zombie herd is the attention to structure in the story as well. The film starts out with these expansive scenes of open forests, lakes, and fields. Being the savvy survivors that they are, Mickey and Ben get out of the populated areas and stick to the open spaces. But just a few wrong turns--mostly perpetuated by Mickey's need for something more than living a vagabond existence (an existence Ben is more than comfortable living), Ben and Mickey go from expansive spaces to the exact opposite; cramped in the back of a keyless station wagon surrounded by hungry zombies. As calm and serene the first half of this film is, the tension is cranked to the limit once Ben and Mickey, pushed to the limits of their friendship, are forced into the small quarters with nothing but liquor, beans, a baseball bat, and a gun with six bullets. The story becomes a test of will for the two men, seeing not if they survive, but how long they can survive.
The ending of this film is absolutely heartbreaking, another testament to Gardner's talented story, the cramped direction of the camera inside of the car, and the performances by Gardner and Cronheim themselves. It's a story that resonates long after the credits and makes you want to rewind and enjoy the journey all over again to see these two friends interact with one another. So likable, these two actors make you wish you could backpack with them across these fantastic locales.
THE BATTERY is not your typical zombie movie in that it's about much more than plagues, spectacle, and world wide catastrophe. It's a small film that hits harder than most big budget yarns; making you laugh, cry, and root for these two friends to survive despite the odds against them. Sure films like WORLD WAR Z are going to have the spectacle, the big budget promos, and the star power, and I'm sure that PG-13 zombie film might have its merits, but you're not going to find a zombie film this year that is more original, more touching, or simply more entertaining than THE BATTERY.
If you’re looking for more on THE BATTERY, check out my interview with the director Jeremy Gardner here!
Another zombie film that dares stray from the herd is HAROLD’S GOING STIFF (full review here) one of the most unique and compelling zombie films I’ve ever seen. The movie was on my list last year, but wasn’t released until recently in limited theaters and on Video On Demand. It’s not the scariest of films, but it puts zombies in a whole new light and is entertaining from start to finish.
Find out where you can find this film here and watch the trailer below!
The Countdown so far…Number 31: TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D!
Number 30: DEVIL’S PASS!
Number 29: THE RAMBLER!
Number 28: THE AMERICAN SCREAM!
Number 27: BATH SALT ZOMBIES!
Number 26: MANBORG!
Number 25: ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY!
Number 24: SIGHTSEERS!
Number 23: ABC’S OF DEATH!
Number 22: THE LAST WILL & TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH!
Number 21: I DIDN’T COME HERE TO DIE!
Number 20: THE CONJURING!
Number 19: COME OUT AND PLAY!
Number 18: V/H/S/2!
Number 17: CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES!
Number 16: CURSE OF CHUCKY!
Number 15: HOME SWEET HOME!
Number 14: YOU’RE NEXT!
Number 13: SIMON KILLER!
Number 12: JUG FACE!
Number 11: KISS OF THE DAMNED!
Number 10: WITHER!
Number 9: WE ARE WHAT WE ARE!
Number 8: RESOLUTION!
Number 7: SLEEP TIGHT!
Number 6: THALE!
Number 5: AMERICAN MARY!
See ya tomorrow, folks, as the count down continues with the best of the best covered in AICN HORROR over the past year!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Mark’s written comics such as THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, DEATHSPORT GAMES, NANNY & HANK (soon to be a feature film from Uptown 6 Films), Zenescope’sGRIMM FAIRY TALES Vol.13 & UNLEASHED: WEREWOLVES – THE HUNGER and a chapter in Black Mask Studios’OCCUPY COMICS. FAMOUS MONSTERS’ LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (co-written with Martin Fisher) will be available soon in trade. Mark also wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK and its follow up THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
Interested in illustrated films, fringe cinema, and other oddities?
Check out Halo-8 and challenge everything!