I’m stunned that in a world where we have no shortage of entertainment about zombies, and the zombie apocalypse, that there has never really been a movie surrounding indigenous people. Zombie movies are almost always about fighting for land, dominance, and or resources, so it seems only natural that we’d have at least twenty by now featuring indigenous main characters. “Blood Quantum” is the first of its kind centering on indigenous characters, all of whom are facing a world where they’ve inherited the Earth, and have to figure out where they stand in it.
In 1981, the dead are suddenly coming back to life outside the isolated Mi’gmaq reserve of Red Crow, except for its Indigenous inhabitants who are immune to the zombie plague, including zombie bites. Six Months in to the apocalypse, Traylor, the tribal sheriff, must protect his son Joseph’s pregnant girlfriend, apocalyptic refugees, and reserve riffraff from the hordes of walking white corpses while inside a fortress. Things go awry, though, when young survivor, Traylor’s other son, Lysol, begins to clash with his tribe, fearing an invasion from outsiders.
A true work of love from director and writer Barnaby, “Blood Quantum” is a thought provoking and very refreshing zombie movie that channels the likes of Romero and John Carpenter. While the movie is primarily a zombie movie, it’s also about society, and how a once dismissed population of individuals become the dominant race and has to figure out how to cope with the circumstances. Barnaby examines a lot of the fall out behind the apocalypse including the diminishing of resources and the reasonable paranoia that stems from being stuck in a world where you’ve been inexplicably spared. While Barnaby does writer particularly unlikable characters here and there, he injects motivations in the antagonists that are at least up for debate.
I think Barnaby will spark a lot of conversation with the audience, especially when it comes to antagonist Lysol’s fears and anxiety. Not only does he fear a zombie horde that will inevitably overcome the fortress, but he’s also fearful of more privileged and better off survivors committing to a siege that will have made the entire struggle pointless. Barnaby could have easily warped his film in to a “Day of the Dead” facsimile, but the motivations behind every character amounts to questions of how far you’re willing to go to survive, and making tough decisions. Barnaby enhances the dread with wonderful cinematography and an excellent score that often feels like John Carpenter.
If anything the film’s big downfall is the sudden shift in time that makes “Blood Quantum” feel like two halves of incomplete films. The first act is all about the exploration of the zombie infection, while the second half pictures the world after the end and how the characters have dealt with it. It feels like Barnaby could have very well expanded on the second act without cutting to it so abruptly. That said, Barnaby’s film is thoughtful, eerie, and poetic with pretty impressive zombie carnage and gore all around; I also loved the top notch turns from the collective cast, including Stonehorse Lone Goeman, and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, respectively. I hope we can see more from him very soon. I also wouldn’t hate more zombie movies centered on people of color.
Now Streaming Exclusively on Shudder.