STUDIO: Hightone Films
MSRP: $19.98
RUNNING TIME: 96 Minutes

Filmmaker commentary
Cast commentary
Advice commentary for aspiring filmmakers
"Making of" featurette
Bloopers & outtakes

The Pitch

"We’re indie. We need a pitch like Stephen King needs an editor."

The Humans

Patrick Dall’Occhio, Benjamin Travers, Rob Webber, Dave Zubradt, Annie Armstrong, Alison Becker. These folks will look familiar, but trust me: apart from Ms. Becker, they ain’t.

The Nutshell

The titular Four Dead Batteries is an amateur improv troupe featuring four men who are at various different points along the metaphorical arc of love. Patrick is commitment-shy, Hennessy was just dumped out of a short-term commitment, Harold is trying to salvage his marriage by caving in to his wife’s pressure to have children, and Nick has been having an affair and watching his marriage crumble. Their individual stories do not so much intertwine as they do dove-tail

The flammable fume hood was found not to be a sufficient deterrent to smoking.

The Package

It’s obvious the filmmakers were trying to make the most of their limitations. The sound and video quality of the film (shot on occasionally-crummy digital) is nothing to write home about, unless you tend to write home negatively. There is heavy grain in most of the shots, especially in those with low-key lighting; the color balancing is off during certain sequences; and the mix of the dialogue is poor, especially for the frequent humorous asides that certain characters have.

There is a balance in Gilead, however. Three engaging, feature-length commentaries are included on the disc: one featuring the filmmakers, one featuring the cast, and one dedicated solely to advice for the amateur filmmaker. Four Dead Batteries is Hiram Martinez’s debut feature, and this last track is fascinating, if not always insightful. Its inclusion betrays a love for indie cinema, and its worth doesn’t end there.

There are two brief featurettes to round out the bonuses, but really it’s the commentaries that carry the disc’s value.

These stickers only became popular after little Jimmy
from around the corner flew his RC plane into the Twin Penises.

The Lowdown

The name of this game isn’t resolution, by any means; this is the sort of plotting that gets dubbed "explorational," as virtually no believable progress or growth is made by any character (although one does take the time to mock the concept of growth as a person). The problem with such a justification is that character exploration requires more effort from the writer, rather than less; in Four Dead Batteries, the writing is flat where it should be rough and shallow where it should be deep. The result is a plot that feels more like a collision of archetypes than anything else.

Fortunately, the writing isn’t the sum of the film. The remainders — direction and acting — are both above-average. The camera equipment the filmmakers used may not be the highest quality digital, but the shooting and the editing work smoothly and unobtrusively. In the acting category, the four male leads put in respectable performances. At any given point in the film it seems that one of the actors or another is outpacing his fellows, but that ranking shifts so much that the end result is a fine balancing of a small ensemble.

Four Dead Batteries is a worthy debut, but as a series of vignettes it lacks the one emotional thread to tie them together, and I suspect most viewers won’t feel like creating one on their own.

6 out of 10