{Review} Blood Quantum Is a Must-See That Rewrites the Zombie Narrative


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.

Michael Greyeyes and Forrest Goodluck in Blood Quantum (2019)

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.

My 2018 Zombie Film Recommendation

Confession: I am tired of the zombie subgenre of horror. I think that “The Walking Dead” should have been canceled at least 2-3 seasons ago. I can’t think of a zombie film I watched all that recently that I found that innovative or attention-worthy, other than Cargo (2017), available to stream on Netlflix. Most of the more interesting zombie films, such as 28 Days Later or Shaun of the Dead, belong to the previous decade. Zombie films tend to come in waves, but this most recent wave has limped along for far too long, like a  corpse waiting to be put out of its misery.

With all of that said however, there is one zombie film released this year that warrants viewing, Night Eats the World by French director Dominique Rocher, an adaptation of Pit Agarmen’s novel. Sure, the film checks off a lot of the cliches, including a sudden outbreak and loose social commentary, but more than anything else, the film is a meditation on loneliness. It begins when moody protagonist Sam (Anders Danielsen Lie) attends a party hosted by an ex. He heads into an empty bedroom by himself, falls asleep, and wakes up to a zombified world, including the apartment caked in blood. He sees some of the party’s stragglers wandering outside, roaming the streets, hungry for human meat.  Suddenly, he realizes that he’s trapped in a building alone with little possibility of escape.

The rest of the film mostly includes quiet scenes, including shots of Sam running around the mostly vacant building to stay in shape. Days, weeks, and possibly months pass. Sometimes, Sam ventures into one of the units to stock up on canned food, but is forced to bolt the doors shut after encountering more of the living dead. He forms a relationship of sorts with a balding zombie trapped in an elevator. This gnawing corpse is played by Denis Lavant, who, though he has no speaking parts, is utterly stellar through his haunting facial expressions. This zombie is humanized and distinct, like Bub in Romero’s Day of the Dead, and in his milky eyes, Sam sees a reflection of his isolated, melancholy state.  Who is really worse off in this situation?

There are times when Sam’s frustration erupts, including a scene where he launches into a pounding drum solo that draws a horde of zombies to the apartment complex. Yet, scenes where Sam is truly in danger of becoming zombie meat are relatively few and far between. Instead, the film focuses on what it would be like to be a survivor in a zombie apocalypse, when, as far as you know, all of your family and friends are dead. How do you go on living?  Throughout the film, time becomes elastic, and it’s unclear how much time has even passed between the beginning of the film and its conclusion. Will Sam even be better off if he makes it to the final scene? That much is unclear.

Stephen King called The Night Eats the World “a perfectly amazing film” a few weeks ago on Twitter, adding that it will “blow your mind.” I think King’s praise of the film is a little overblown, but I will say that the film deserves attention and has fallen under the radar, unfortunately. It tries to do something different with the zombie genre, and it generally succeeds.


The Zombie Is Dead, Long Live the Zombie!

The various sub genres of horror, like everything else, go in and out of fashion. The slasher. The possession movie. The ghost story. The monster movie. The zombie film. For much of the 2000s, the zombie dominated the horror genre. Think of the impressive box office success of films like 28 Days Later (2001), Dawn of the Dead (2004), Shaun of the Dead (2004) and the high TV ratings of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” (2010).

Yet, for the last few years, the zombie genre has waned. Lately, horror has focused more on the internal and the psychological, specifically films like Hereditary, A Quiet Place, Get Out, and to some extent, It. Frankly, I can’t even think of the last time that I saw a zombie film in the theaters. Even “The Walking Dead,” which was a ratings Juggernaut for so many years, may be facing its apocalyptic sunset since Andrew Lincoln, aka Rick Grimes, and Lauren Cohen, aka Maggie, have announced that this season will be their last season, and they will only appear in six episodes. How can the show function without Rick and Maggie? Like a staggering corpse, it needs to be put out of its misery. It had a long, good run.

The more recent horror films that are doing well deal with socio/political issues (Get Out), or deal with the terror that is bringing a child into this world, specifically A Quiet Place, and, to some extent Hereditary. This has been the trend of the last few years, and based upon the United States’ political turmoil and polarization, coupled with the threat of climate change and other big issues, it is not likely this trend is going to subside anytime soon.

This brings me to a newish zombie film that I recommend: Cargo, an Australian film directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke. Cargo is currently streaming on Netflix and well worth your time.

The plot of the film is rather simple. A father, Andy (Martin Freeman), tries to protect his infant daughter after an epidemic spreads and turns people into zombies. Yes, this formula has been done time and time again, but Cargo works so well because it focuses on character, on Andy’s anxieties of  raising a child in  an unforgiving, uncertain world.  The visuals of the film are striking, nightmareish, and sometimes surreal. The zombies are not your typical rotting flesh corpses; instead, they have green fungus growing from their skin. Read into that any environmental metaphor that you may.


Zombies have survived for decades and decades because they have managed to evolve. They started out on the silver screen as a monster that alluded to Haitian and West African voodoo lure/myths. They then became Romero’s slow-walking flesh-eaters, until they become something even more menacing, relentless, and faster in 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake.

I am not saying that Cargo is going to remake the genre. It doesn’t have enough mass appeal to do that, but it does show that zombie films can still work and work well when they focus on character and a believable plot, like a father trying to protect his daughter. The fungus aspect gives the familiar monster a new angle that taps into deeper environmental concerns. As the zombie trend that dominated so much of the 2000s finally wanes, the creature will need to evolve again to suit the times and the larger global anxieties. Cargo provides a path forward for the flesh-eating, familiar creature.