By now the formula for a Zombie film can be written with one’s eyes close. A virus leads to an outbreak, the undead rise again and chaos ensues amongst the survivors. This is why Jeff Barnaby’s latest work Blood Quantum is such a rare treat. It takes familiar genre tropes and pumps searing commentary into their undead veins.
Blood Quantum is a film that not only calls out the devastating ramifications of colonization on the indigenous community and Mother Nature, but also takes aim at the institutions that continue to marginalize First Nations people. The title alone is a reference to the blood measurement system that colonials use to determine one’s Indigenous status. Indigenous is blood takes on a different connotation in Barnaby’s hands, it becomes a simple of hope and pride. It is literally the lifeline that can potentially save mankind.
When dead animals begin coming back to life on Red Crow Reservation, police chief Traylor (Michael Greyeyes) is called in to investigate. Already navigating his strained relationships with his two sons, Joseph (Forrest Goodluck) and the reckless Lysol (Kiowa Gordon), and ex-wife Joss (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers), Traylor soon discovers that he has a zombie, referred to as Zeds, outbreak on his hands.
By making the townies, who are predominantly white, the ones easily susceptible to infection, Barnaby skillfully forces viewers to reflect on issues of racism, injustice, environmental decay and the systems that hold back generations of Indigenous youth from reaching their full potential. The commentary blends nicely with the film’s brash and entertaining style. While Barnaby infuses obvious nods to George A. Romero and Quentin Tarantino throughout, he ensures that the film has his own unique stamp. Incorporating humour and animation into visually striking moments of horror, Blood Quantum is proof that the zombie genre still has plenty of unique stories to tell.