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TIFF 2019: ‘Blood Quantum’ Is The Zombie Movie We Need Right Now – Review

Zombies – one of horror’s greatest creations. There is an endless list of films and television shows that focus on this horror sub-genre. We have seen zombies birthed by awful medical errors countless times; post-apocalyptic worlds are riddled with them. Zombies began as these terrifying sluggish creatures that slowly chased brains, now they run and swarm. They exist in classics (Dawn of the Dead), comedies (Shaun of the Dead), romances (Warm Bodies), dramas (World War Z), Christmas musicals (Anna and the Apocalypse), and even a Disney Channel movie (Z-O-M-B-I-E-S). Now, Jeff Barnaby’s Blood Quantum (which premiered at TIFF’s Midnight Madness), has found a new way to keep things fresh.

This is a personal, character-driven story about the lives of Indigenous people. Led by the incomparable Michael Greyeyes (Woman Walks Ahead) the story follows a family and community who find themselves mysteriously immune to a virus that is turning people into zombies.

The film uses this zombie plague as a way to engage with the personal dynamics of this one family, as well as their identities and place on their once sacred land. It is not a secret that Barnaby’s film is tackling the unhealed wounds of colonization and its long-lasting consequences. While engaging with some heavy topics, the film doesn’t let us forget that this is a zombie movie. Barnaby gives us plenty of awesome (and sometimes hilarious) zombie killing. He even gifts us with the image of the badass Stonehorse Lone Goeman wielding a samurai sword.

Jeff Barnaby shooting Blood Quantum (Courtesy of Elevation Pictures)

With a budget that is perhaps more than half the size of any of the previous zombie movies mentioned, Blood Quantum stands out as a finely crafted film. Great cinematography and set designs add to the story being told. Barnaby also lends his musical talents to the film to help create the atmosphere, and provide a more visceral experience. The cherry on top is a fun cast that ground the story and liven up the screen.

Blood Quantum successfully balances the well-meaning discussion it starts and our favourite elements of the zombie sub-genre. It’s a fresh take that does have something to say with people whose very presence in a genre film like this is revolutionary. The fact that this is one of the first genre films to star a majority Indigenous cast is both impressive and maddening.

Fortunately, Blood Quantum is a great first to jumpstart an entire movement of genre films starring Indigenous actors in leading roles. And, maybe, just maybe, Blood Quantum can come back to life with a television show or series of films. If The Walking Dead can spin-off into other shows, why can’t this?

Blood Quantum was acquired by Shudder for international distribution. Elevation Pictures and Crave are charged with Canadian distribution.

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