Decayed Flesh Freshened

The 2019 zombie film Blood Quantum (now available for streaming on Shudder) has a lot to recommend it. The buildup to the outbreak is handled very effectively (creepiest use of salmon I’ve ever seen in a movie). The gore effects are shockingly good for a film that didn’t have a summer-blockbuster budget. And there are some really inventive zombie kills (yet the carnage never descends into mood-spoiling campiness).

What really distinguishes Blood Quantum, though, and makes it such a significant entry into the zombie film subgenre is the fact that the story is told through the perspective of Indigenous peoples–the inhabitants of the Mi’gmaq reserve of Red Crow in Canada. For whatever strange reason (the film doesn’t delve too deeply into explanation), anyone of First Nations blood proves immune to the plague that causes the rest of humanity to revive as the carnivorous undead. Immune, however, does not mean safe from harm, as the film’s POC heroes are still vulnerable to sheer savaging by the fast-moving hordes of “ZEDs.” The violent encroachment of white people onto native land allows the film to make an interesting colonial critique, and to director Jeff Barnaby’s credit, such subtext is woven in seamlessly and never verges on preachiness.

Blood Quantum isn’t a perfect film, for certain. In the middle third (when the time jumps “six months later” in the apocalypse), the plot tends to meander. There are also some brief animated sequences interpolated into the live-action that end up being more distracting than they are worth. The acting won’t receive any Oscar nods, but overall this is an entertaining zombie film, one that provides a fresh perspective onto a traditional scenario. Not settling for typical cannibalistic excess, Blood Quantum gives viewers plenty of food for thought.


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