Review by Sean Boelman
The second film by writer-director Jeff Barnaby (Rhymes for Young Ghouls), Blood Quantum is the type of inspired and intelligent zombie movie that could revitalize the genre. With plenty of gore, but tons of heart to back it up, Barnaby has delivered a genre flick that is both entertaining and thoughtful.
The movie takes place during a zombie apocalypse in which the only people immune to the virus are a group of First Nations indigenous peoples, causing their reserve to become both a sanctuary and a danger for themselves. While exploring the threat of the living in a world of the dead is nothing to the post-apocalyptic genre, the unique lens through which Barnaby tells his story stands out.
While it isn’t particularly subtle, the film’s commentary on the racism experienced by indigenous people is certainly very interesting. Historically, in cinema, Native Americans have been treated as the “savages” that the hero must defeat, but in this case, they are the heroes uniting against the savagery of oppression by the white man. Barnaby is able to continue the recent trend in socially-conscious horror with his own thought-provoking addition.
The character development in the movie is also solid. In a move that is unusual for the genre, the characters are given motivations that are legitimately meaningful. Usually, the characters are driven by one of two instincts: survive or protect. While that is here to some extent, there is also something much deeper to these characters.
Barnaby also did a great job of casting talented indigenous actors in his film. Michael Greyeyes gives a performance worthy of standing up against the genre’s classics, with both plenty of emotion and a great ability to deliver the witty one-liners that come to him in the script. He’s certainly very charming and was a perfect fit for this role.
Furthermore, the movie is simply a ton of fun to watch. The first forty-five minutes are highly suspenseful, playing into the fear of the unknown, while the last hour goes crazy, throwing the audience into this post-apocalyptic world. Genre fans will undeniably be pleased with the balance of campy gore, genuine thrills, and intriguing atmosphere.
On a technical level, it is obvious that the film wasn’t working with a massive budget, but Barnaby succeeds in capturing the feel for which he was aiming. This isn’t supposed to feel like a modern studio horror flick, but rather, a B-movie ripped straight out of the ‘70s or ‘80s, and in that regard, the over-the-top gore and hyper-stylized visual style work quite well.
Blood Quantum is an entertaining, solidly-made, and well-intentioned horror film. With Shudder offering an extended free trial right now, those horror fanatics stuck at home in a lockdown have no excuse not to check out this gnarly flick.
Blood Quantum is now streaming on Shudder.
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