Just when you thought there was nothing new left to do with the zombie genre, here comes the Shudder original Blood Quantum, a very timely look at a pandemic outbreak that causes corpses to come back to life as ravenous “zeads”, and the only ones immune (including animals) are Indigenous people.
Blood Quantum manages to breath some new life into a seemingly familiar tale by setting it entirely inside the Red Crow Indian Reservation in Canada, where it was filmed with an almost all Indigenous cast and crew, including First Nations writer and director Jeff Barnaby.
The story takes place in pre-internet 1981, beginning with recently caught fish flopping back to life unexpectedly and quickly escalating to a full blown zombie apocalypse, as the small community inside the isolated Mi’gmaq reserve of Red Crow are somehow immune and are now humanity’s last stand against the hungry undead hordes.
Tribal sheriff Traylor (played by Michael Greyeyes) has his hands full trying to protect his wife, his son and his son’s pregnant girlfriend (who is not Indigenous), and his other hot-tempered, unbalanced son.
Barnaby was born on the Mi’gmaq reserve, and everything in the film is fittingly colored by this unique point of view that we just have not seen enough of in cinema, giving us look inside a truly Indigenous community. His distinct voice and vision is all over Blood Quantum, as Barnaby not only wrote and directed, but also edited and composed the soundtrack, which feels like a John Carpenter score doused in tribal drums and chants.
As with Romero’s zombie films, the real villains of the story are not the charging undead but the thick-headed humans, but unlike Romero’s, these zombies are extremely fast and can quickly overtake an armed group with just their sheer speed and numbers.
Running zombies aside, Romero would otherwise definitely approve of this film, as Barnaby layers the story with subtle social commentary, while never flinching from the more than plentiful gore.
Instant parallels to our current real life ongoing pandemic can clearly be drawn, as the Mi’gmaq people are forced to quarantine themselves inside the reservation, literally building a wall to keep others out, and they don’t hesitate to put anyone they find to be bitten out of their misery.
A bold and poignant look inside a culture too rarely seen on film, Blood Quantum succeeds in delivering a new take on a classic genre, and confidently confirming the arrival of Jeff Barnaby as a fresh, smart voice in horror.
Blood Quantum is available to stream now on Shudder.
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