“Blood Quantum” premiered at the Toronto Film Festival where it became a crowd favorite and was picked up by the streaming service Shudder for distribution. It’s another zombie movie, but this one has a twist, similar to last year’s “One Cut of the Dead,” an outstanding film that ended up being my favorite of 2019.
In “Blood Quantum,” the dead are coming back to life outside the Indian reserve of Red Crow, except for its indigenous inhabitants who are strangely immune to the zombie plague. During all of this turmoil, we jump to some time in the future when it is full ‘The Walking Dead’ post-apocalypse and the Red Crow have created a gated community to hold their own kind against the outer elements.
However, they must make tough choices and battle against each other’s opinions, as non-native people seek refuge inside their fortress. While that is the broad strokes of the film, there is conflict between people in the tribe such as a brotherly rivalry and a teenage pregnancy in the form of a coming-of-age story about responsibility and parenthood.
Nowadays, when one makes a zombie film, there is a usual checklist of things that need to be addressed. Those usually come down to, “How did this zombie plague come about?” Most of the time, it is unimportant because that is not what the central focus of what the film is about, similar to Geroge Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” — the first ever “zombie film.”
The next thing to consider is whether the zombies are fast or slow and how can they be killed?
Now, I was actually a bit confused about this myself while watching “Blood Quantum” because the zombies are portrayed as slow-moving for a good majority of the film, but later on, they begin to run.
It was “mind-pretzeling,” however, it is not important because the zombies in this film are a backdrop for the drama. And “Blood Quantum” does follow the Romero rule of “kill the brain” to kill the zombie — which is the most common way zombies are killed in films unless it’s a film like “Return of the Living Dead.”
The core issue with this film has nothing to do with the zombies because it is more about the drama, but the problem is the lack of a convincing drama. If the zombie elements were more forefront, the lack of a well-executed drama may be excusable, but there is both a lack of zombies and good drama.
I’m assuming the character we are supposed to connect with most is that of Joseph, played by Forrest Goodluck. Joseph is the son of the Red Crow Reserve’s Chief of Police, Traylor. Joseph is the usual teenager up to mischief such as vandalizing property and getting his girlfriend pregnant at a very young age; Joseph’s journey is him learning responsibility.
However, he does not feel like the main character. Traylor feels like the focus for a good majority of the film and gets a lot of the screen time, which leads to why the drama with Joseph is not as impactful.
Even with those two characters, I found that my favorite was Traylor’s father and Joseph’s grandpa, played by Stonehorse Lone Goeman. How awesome of a name is that? The way Grandpa was introduced indicates that this man gets things done; he seems to be a Vietnam veteran and has a samurai sword — a staple weapon in any zombie film.
He was the most gravitating character in the entire film because he took action, even though he had no place in the drama of the film. I should also mention that the actor who played Grandpa has never acted before other than in one thing. This is his breakout role, and he was honestly the best part of the film.
It’s also not an avant garde idea to sneak social commentary into a horror film. From “Night of the Living Dead” to “Us,” it has been shown to work time and time again. “Blood Quantum” is, in fact, a commentary on colonialism, according to the writer/ director Jeff Barnaby, and it isn’t always that subtle.
However, the fact that those particular elements exist in the subtext saves “Blood Quantum” from being criticized as a paint-by-the-numbers zombie film.
“Blood Quantum” lacks the strengths of its convictions, but it is still a very gory zombie flick that will do no wrong with no real long-lasting impact. However, if you are looking for a truly innovative zombie film from recent years, please seek out Shinichirou Ueda’s “One Cut of the Dead.”