TADFF 2013 Day 3: ‘Stalled’ and ‘The Battery’
Written by Dan Palmer
Directed by Christian James
Being trapped in a room full of zombies should be a bit more harrowing than the UK horror comedy Stalled would suggest. In the film, a hapless maintenance worker/janitor (Dan Palmer) gets trapped in the women’s lavatory during a company Christmas party. Things are exacerbated further when a slew of zombies start invading the loo, at which point the janitor realizes a woman named Heather (Antonia Bernath) is trapped with him a few stalls down.
With its low production qualities and lack of real story, Stalled doesn’t make for a very tense or scary zombie flick. Instead, the film functions more as a journey of introspection for the main character, with the faceless Heather as the pseudo-psychiatrist who helps him realize his emotional reclusion and personal failings. It’s all very schmaltzy, indeed (much like a bottle episode on TV), but it does make us care for the characters, even if there’s not enough comedy or horror to balance the heavy stuff (the wacked-out-on-drugs sequence in particular comes off as desperate).
Written and directed by Jeremy Gardner
In The Battery, two ex-baseballers traverse across the rural remains of zombie-infested America. Ben (Jeremy Gardner), the playoff-bearded realist, has accepted a zombified existence. He’s realized the need to kill ex-humans to survive, and even takes pleasure in leisurely activities of yore to pass time, such as baseball and fishing. Mickey (Adam Cronheim), the hair-gelled idealist, refuses to kill, and constantly listens to his CD player to dissociate the harsh reality around him with the romantic world he still believes (and lives) in. Their already tenuous relationship is further strained when they come into radio contact with a group of fellow survivors.
Far from being a simple survival film, Battery offers up a layered examination of two people at vastly different stages of their lives. The beauty comes from watching characters not so much change, but adapt. There’s a sense pervading throughout that the two lads would go through a similar transformation, have similar types of conversations and arguments, if they were on a camping trip (the grounded performances by Gardner and Cronheim help this a great deal), and that a zombie epidemic only expedites and brings to the forefront these moments where people reassess their standing in and views on life.
Specs-wise, the rustic and sparse soundtrack, along with the many elongated and tense long takes, complement the plaintive mood and atmosphere of The Battery, which, in addition to often wrenching and suspenseful moments, deftly characterizes the loaded nature and experience of the film.
– Justin Li