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Review: BLOOD QUANTUM (2020)

Another day, another zombie film. The genre, like the creatures in it, simply will not die no matter how decayed and rotted they get. But once in a while, there’s still one that finds a way to stand out from the shambling hordes. In this case, it’s Blood Quantum from writer/director Jeff Barnaby (Rhymes for Young Ghouls).

Like Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Sang-ho Yeon’s Train To Busan before it, Blood Quantum uses the walking dead to take a look at society. In this case, the treatment of First Nations people. And familial relationships within their communities. And it does it without skimping on the scares or gore. Especially not the gore.

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Set in 1981 on the Mi’gmaq reserve of Red Crow gets off to a quick and messy start. A fisherman’s catch comes back to life even after being gutted. Sheriff Traylor (Michael Greyeyes, V Wars) has to put down the dog belonging to his ex-wife Joss’ (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers). The dog doesn’t stay dead, either. Something that soon spreads to the local Caucasian population. For some reason, though, the indigenous population is immune. But that leads to its own conflicts. Taylor’s son Joseph (Forrest Goodluck, The Revenant) has a pregnant girlfriend Charlie (Olivia Scriven) who’s white.

Blood Quantum then moves forward six months. The reservation is fortified and under siege. Factions are springing up among the members of the tribe. Traylor and the others have a plan, but can they hold out long enough to implement it?

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Blood Quantum makes some obvious points about discrimination. And the image of a First Nations town once again facing genocide from white hands is obvious in its historical references. But Barnaby, who grew up on a reservation, doesn’t deal in simple stereotyping or easy answers. He’s not afraid to show the self-inflicted problems his people face.

Barnaby centers much of the story around Traylor and his two sons, Joseph and the habitual criminal and potentially psychotic Lysol (Kiowa Gordon, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Wind Walkers). This lets Blood Quantum explore this without taking away from the main plot. Issues of substance abuse, criminality, and parenting all come into play. We can contrast the relationships between Taylor and the sons he had in vastly different stages of his life. And with his relationship with his own father, Gisigu (Stonehorse Lone Goeman).

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But first and foremost, Blood Quantum is a horror film. And it delivers on that level with a maximum of carnage. An anti-zombie barricade that utilizes a lethal piece of farm equipment. Gisigu’s weapon of choice is a katana. People, several of whom we’ve come to care about, are ripped open and gutted. Zombies are cut in half. There are also a couple of surprises I won’t spoil.

From its ominous opening to the tense and bloodstained final act, Blood Quantum delivers as a horror film and as a drama. Now with its planned theatrical release cancelled due to COVID-19, Shudder has made it available now. Check it out. You can also find more information on the film’s Facebook page.

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