blood quantum | jeff barnaby | michael greyeyes | elle-maija tailfeathers | forrest goodluck | zombie | zombies | canada | kiowa gordon | olivia scriven | stonehorse lone goeman | brandon oakes | william belleau | devery jacobs | gary farmer | kent mcquaid | history
Film: Blood Quantum
Director: Jeff Barnaby
Writer: Jeff Barnaby
Starring: Michael Greyeyes, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Forrest Goodluck
This was a film that I heard some buzz about when it hit Shudder. I know I listened to a No More Room in Hell Presents Fresh Cuts episode on this movie and from everything I heard it definitely intrigued me. This might have been referenced on another podcast that I listened to, but I can’t confirm that. I’m a fan of zombie films when they’re done right so I decided to give this a viewing. I also did a second viewing during December to see where this movie would fall for my year end list as well. The synopsis is the dead are coming back to life outside the isolated Mi’kmaq reserve of Red Crow, except for its indigenous inhabitants who are strangely immune to the zombie plague.
We start this with a quote about taking heed and make no treaty to those that inhabit there. It also states to make sons with their daughters and your sons will do as well. This seems to be a settler’s proverb and really shows what the settlers did to the native population of North America. It then shows us the character of Gisigu (Stonehorse Lone Goeman) as he’s fishing. He has caught a bunch of salmon, but when he goes to gut it, they’re all flopping around and no longer dead.
The movie then gives us an overhead view of the area we’re in and we learn this is the Red Crow Reservation in 1981. It then gives us a cartoon of a pregnant woman and the Earth being destroyed by factories and pollution. We also get a see a baby inside the womb of Earth, which I took that the people of this area are the children of it. This is all done overtop of the credits.
We’re following the local sheriff as he goes out to Moon’s (Gary Farmer) place. The sheriff is Traylor (Michael Greyeyes) and he’s been called out there as his ex-wife’s dog is sick. Moon thinks it could possible be rat poison in the garbage. Traylor shoots the dog to put it out of its misery.
Traylor then goes over his ex’s place, Joss (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers). She is splitting her own wood and she is a nurse. When Traylor arrives, she relays their son Joseph is in lock up. The dispatcher, Doris (Felicia Shulman), has been trying to get Traylor on the phone all morning, but he hasn’t been home. Traylor tells Joss they’ll get their son out of lock-up at noon.
He then calls into Doris to get a rundown. She relays that Joseph (Forrest Goodluck) was picked up with Lysol (Kiowa Gordon). A man named Shooker (William Belleau) has been trying to get an ambulance all night and his father called in, sounding really scared. Traylor relays his instructions and goes about making all of this right. This takes him to his father’s place first, his father being Gisigu. It is there he learns the dead are coming back to life, as the salmon are still alive and the dog has returned as well. They go ahead and burn all of these animals, with Traylor getting his father out of retirement as a deputy.
In lock-up are Joseph and Lysol. They are half-brothers, where Joseph is making bad choices when hanging out with Lysol. Also with them is a guy who is quite sick and throwing up blood. When Traylor finally show up, we see just how sick the guy in the cell with them really is. He bites both Joseph and Shamu (Kent McQuaid), the officer on duty.
Things get out of hand as there’s a bunch of reports of people biting other people and we learn something quite important, despite Traylor and Joseph being bit, they aren’t infected. The movie jumps six months into the future, where a small civilization is set up. They have a solid plan of survival, but more ‘townies’ of white people are seeking refuge with the Native Americans in the area. There is even talks that they can cure the infection. This upsets Lysol as their safety is in jeopardy to help them. We also see that addiction still runs deep with this population as even the best laid plans have problems.
Now I know I went a bit long with my recap here, but pretty much everything I laid out is really like the first 40 minutes of the film. It felt like I needed to relay it without going too much into spoilers. I’m also kicking myself for not having watched this movie earlier. I don’t think it is the best film I’ve ever seen, but I really like what this movie is doing.
The first thing is as a zombie film, I thought it is pretty solid. What is interesting is that we’re getting running zombies. In the grand scheme, that is not my favorite, but what I like is the realism with it. The ones that are running are zombies that are more freshly dead. The longer they’re dead, they’re starting to rot so it causes them to slow down and it is an idea that I really dig.
Going along with this is the idea of all the Native Americans being immune. It doesn’t go into why, which I like. Moon does throw out the idea that the Earth just forgot about them. It is interesting that in Native American culture, they’re much more in tune with the Earth, so there’s a possible explanation. I did find it interesting that blood quantum was something used to determine the amount of Native American blood a person has in them. I had no idea this was a thing, but it is used to determine citizenship into these reservations as well as for federal funding from the government. This is really an interesting idea to use for the title as well. It also takes something that is negative and in the case of the movie, making it a positive.
Since speaking on the idea of being immune, we do have the character of Charlie (Olivia Scriven). She’s dating Joseph and we first meet her in the hospital where she has to decide to have an abortion or not. Joseph seems to want her to keep it, but he’s respectful to allow her to make the decision. She’s not immune when things go down. Her child might be, but there are fears there. What is also interesting though is Shooker’s girlfriend is also pregnant and we get a pretty horrific scene with her. I bring this up as there’s the scary concept of being pregnant during a time like this, but is also brings the fears of not being ready to be a parent, especially when Joseph and Charlie are so young. Another idea is that a baby in the grand scheme is a parasite so Charlie is worried that it is going to kill her from the inside.
There’s also some racism in this movie, but I enjoy the different take that it is handled. I did learn from the podcast episodes about it that Native Americans in Canada didn’t seem to be treated as bad as in the United States, but that’s not to say they weren’t treated poorly. Much like here, addiction and being killed off through disease happened there as well. What I really like though is turning this concept when the world has ended and them being immune which allows them to take back their land. They have the upper hand here and taking back what other took from them. We get an interesting allegory where a character takes someone who is infected as a zombie and sends them amongst those that would also be if they’re bitten. It isn’t that much different from white people giving blankets infected with smallpox to Native Americans as a way to kill them off.
The last aspect I wanted to go over with the idea of this movie is that this seems like one of the more realistic zombie films as well. I say that, because since the Native Americans can’t be infected by the virus, they get bit. We see Traylor’s back is covered in bites. Joseph was bit and there’s a cool scene near the end where a group is asked who has the most flesh to take on a bunch of zombies. It adds an interesting dynamic for sure since they’re getting bit quite a lot.
Since I’m talking about the zombies, I should go over the effects. I think they’re well done across the board. The look of those infected is good. Most of the effects look to be practical which I’m always on board for. We get some really good gore and blood spray as well. There’s really only one scene later in the movie where I could tell it was CGI. I’m not going to hold that against it too much as it is quick. I like the mask that Lysol has after the world ends; it is the figure on the poster I’ve seen for this movie. Aside from that, the cinematography is good in my opinion as well. It is used strategic at different times which help to hide things I’m sure.
The last thing that I wanted to go over would be the acting. I love that this movie has actual actors playing the race of the characters. Greyeyes plays such an interesting character in my opinion. He had Lysol at a young age and he sees he’s messed up there. He is trying his best, but he’s made mistakes. He is quite hard on himself due to them. Regardless, he’s still a good man. Tailfeathers is quite attractive and I like her character. Goodluck is solid, but I really like Gordon. He brings arrogance and ends up making a great villain in my eyes, but it is hard for me to completely hate him. I also really liked Goeman’s character as well. Scriven is also cute and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.
So now with that said I’m glad I finally gave this movie a chance. It has such interesting concepts in my eyes. It has an interesting take on a concept that is a bit played out at times in my opinion. I like making this race that has been marginalized, telling the story from their point of view and putting them in charge. The acting really helps to bring that to life as well. The effects are on point aside from one blip. The soundtrack was fine, but not really one that stood out to me. I will admit, this movie did come down in rating for me after the second viewing. That isn’t to say it is bad, as I think this is a good movie still. It is still a contender for me as well for my end of year list.
My Rating: 8 out of 10