Every so often an original take hits the zombie genre, but it’s important to never get one’s hopes up. 2017’s The Cured, for example, found zombies getting cured but living with the memories of their zombie actions—a fantastic idea that wound up producing a tragically boring movie. In the newly released Blood Quantum, however, writer/director Jeff Barnaby’s vision of a world wherein Indigenous Canadians are immune to a zombie virus ravaging white folks, we get something we’ve never seen before, plus some of the coolest practical and gore effects in a movie ever—and an almost entirely Indigenous cast.
On the Mi’gMaq reserve of Red Crow, sheriff Traylor (Michael Greyeyes) finds himself in the midst of a very bad day. His sons are arrested and his ex (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) is none too pleased; dead salmon are flopping back to life and his cousin’s wife just ate her newborn. Within six months, the surviving tribal members have built up a small but relatively safe shelter of shipping containers on a small island, but with zombified white people shambling and sprinting across the bridge, it’s only a matter of time before they’ll have to leave in search of something more tenable. To make matters worse, his teenage son Joseph (Indian Horse star Forrest Goodluck) has an impregnated girlfriend (Olivia Scriven of Degrassi) and his other son Lysol (Kiowa Gordon) has some controversial ideas about who gets to live or die. Cue bloody horror and Santa Fean Gary Farmer manning a super-cool piece of farming equipment that chews up zombies and spits them out in a glorious shower of blood and guts.
Outside of the totally bitchin’ premise and the totally bitchin’ grandpa (Stonehorse Lone Goeman) who fights with a sword instead of guns, Blood Quantum does suffer from a number of middling support performances. Its core cast, however, finds common ground between action thrills and emotional nuance. Goodluck in particular brings a noteworthy turn as a youngster who seemingly finds his purpose just in time for the world to end. Gordon similarly impresses with calculated evil dressed up as concern, and did we mention the sword fighting grandpa? Greyeyes wows as well, sometimes hysterically funny amidst so much carnage and death, sometimes a caring father faced with tough decisions.
As for the not-so-subtle subtext, it’s notable that characters still try to do right by the very colonizers destroying their lives with illness. We all know (or should know) at least some of the history surrounding the awful ways Native folks in this country have been treated. So we root steadfast for the non-zombies right up to the harrowing final moments of this exciting film.
+Core cast; effects; original idea; incredible cinematography
-Some wooden performances
Directed by Barnaby
With Greyeyes, Goodluck, Tailfeathers, Gordon and Scriven
Shudder, NR, 96 min.