Just when you think the zombie genre is exhausted, along comes a film that rewrites the tropes and feels incredibly relevant for the era. Canadian director Jeff Barnaby’s sophomore full-length Blood Quantum is such a film. It’s highly entertaining, gory, and rife with social commentary about the erasure of Indigenous peoples. It’s the type of zombie movie that you wish George A. Romero was still around to see.
Featuring a nearly all-Ingenious cast, the film is set on the isolated Mi’gMaq reserve of Red Crow, where, oddly enough, Indigenous inhabitants are immune to a zombie plague. In the first scene, gutted salmon come back to life, their tales flapping. Not long after, dogs reanimate, snarling and looking for a meal. Six months later, the world is a hellscape.
Throughout the 90-minute run-time, the film tackles a number of issues, including addiction, isolation, absent fathers, inter-generational violence, trauma, and, of course, colonization. Even the film’s title implores the viewer to research its meaning. Once the six month period hits, the zombie narrative takes on an entirely different meaning, as the Ingenious characters suddenly find themselves with real power, left to determine which white people are allowed on the rez, inspecting them for bites and other potential threats.
Watch the trailer below:
Michael Greyeyes as Traylor, a sheriff, is a subdued type of hero, initially called to investigate a strange set of circumstances way beyond his control. He also serves as a moral compass of sorts, trying to ensure that a fair set of rules and ethics are enforced. Yet, he’s not without his flaws. He had a messy split with his ex, Joss (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers), a nurse who evolves into quite the survivor. His sons, Lysol (Kiowa Gordon) and Joseph (Forrest Goodluck), mention more than once how absent he was in their life.
The sons are another matter entirely, well-written and well-drawn, total opposites. Lysol reflects a simmering anger and rage that the outbreak only exacerbates. Joseph, meanwhile, displays more of his father’s better attributes. He is calm and level-headed. His relationship with a white girl, Charlie (Olivia Scriven), however, only deepens the tensions and opposing world views between he and his brother.
Joseph (Forrest Goodluck), Traylor (Michael Greyeyes), and Lysol (Kiowa Gordon)
The best zombie movies are the ones that hold a mirror up to our society and make us ask how we’d react when the world goes to hell. During COVID-19, Blood Quantum couldn’t be more timely. It makes us pay attention to a people that have often been erased and it gives us their story. This is a movie about zombies, sure, and there’s plenty of gore and cool kills, but this is also a story about father and sons and a people that have always survived. The film is rich in symbolism, from the names ( Joseph, the first father), to some of the settings (a church that contains some of the film’s most brutal violence), to wise quotes about the our treatment of the Earth and perhaps a greater reason and purpose for the outbreak. The film carries on the tradition of social commentary in the zombie film, while focusing on a much different narrative that needs to be told. Blood Quantum is smart and wildly entertaining. Give it your attention.
Blood Quantum is streaming on Shudder now.