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Review: Blood Quantum – “Full of pure panic, emotion, and thrilling action and escapes”

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Blood Quantum is an Indigenous American horror film written and directed by Jeff Barnaby (Rhymes for Young Ghouls) who is a First Nations filmmaker born on the reserve where the film takes place. 

Available to stream now on Shudder, the film stars: Michael Greyeyes (True Detective), Forrest Goodluck (The Revenant), Kiowa Gordon (The Twilight Saga), and proper-hard-as-nails MMA trainer Stonehorse Lone Goeman.

It’s 1981 and Sheriff Traylor (Greyeyes) is the law on the Mi’gmaq reserve of the Red Crow. He has two sons: one, Lysol (Gordon), a rebel fond of getting wasted enough to poop off bridges and get tossed in the drunk tank, and the other, Joseph (Goodluck), the good one who nonetheless will get himself banged up too just to be able to spend time with his bro – even if it’s in a cell.

After an inventive and memorable sequence in which the fish Traylor’s father, and the previous Sheriff, Gisigu (Goeman), was gutting all come back to life, the reservation’s residents realise that a zombie virus is infecting the earth, but that they, the Indigenous peoples, are not able to be infected. The reservation becomes the only safe refuge and a sudden influx of white refugees pushes a simmering Lysol to boiling point leading to a gore and action-packed zombie siege.

The leads are all excellent. Greyeyes’ stoic Sheriff is a very tough and cool lawman who you can believe a community would rally around and be led by, while Gordon and Goodluck both equally impress. As the loose cannon Lysol, Gordon gets to have the most fun – sneering and hateful and conflicted – but having Goodluck’s solid dude Joseph to bounce off makes for no easy family dynamics and plenty of tasty tensions.

Goeman’s granddad Gisigu steals the show though due to being an actor who you know is for-real-double-hard without having to say a word. Plus, he is lethal with a katana and gets to use it to inflict plenty of very cool kills.

The action, gore, and effects are so much fun, with some brilliant set-pieces and very inventive zombie kills (CHAINSAW TO THE BACK OF THE HEAD IS SO GOOD) inflicted on deadheads that have wonderful makeup thanks to the award-winning Erik Gosselin (Being Human).

Blood Quantum looks gorgeous too and should see a lot of projects come calling for cinematographer Michel St-Martin. The use of colour and composition in his photography is gorgeous, and the film features some truly painterly shots as well as also even being punctuated by some haunting animated sequences as well.

There are some slow stretches in the second act that make events feel more like a middling ep of The Walking Dead, dropping the stunning photography and excitement for some telly-level water-treading, and the ending — which is juggling a lot of characters and action and situations — drops the odd ball too. The actual ending is very cool and satisfying, but there’s a bit of confusion regarding certain characters and their fates right before we get there.

Full of pure panic, emotion, and thrilling action and escapes, Blood Quantum is swift and slick and shows that talented people can still do cool stuff with the zombie movie. The genre isn’t dead – it’s a canvas and it just needs original and rad ideas laid down onto it.

Blood Quantum is available to stream on Shudder now.

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