Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michael Greyeyes, Forrest Goodluck, Kiowa Gordon, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Olivia Scriven, Stonehorse Lone Goeman, Brandon Oakes, William Belleau, Devery Jacobs, Gary Farmer
Written by: Jeff Barnaby
Directed by: Jeff Barnaby
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: English, Mi'gmaq, with English subtitles
Running Time: 98
Date: 04/28/2020

Blood Quantum (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

No Rez for the Wicked

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Whenever I start to think the zombie subgenre of horror has completely played itself out, someone actually comes up with another great idea. This time it's Jeff Barnaby's Blood Quantum, a clever, serious effort that seems to draw inspiration from George A. Romero's original films, in that it uses its outbreak to suggest other social issues just under the surface. The basic, brilliant idea here is that indigenous people are immune to the latest zombie infection, though this condition brings the characters very little peace. (The movie premieres April 28, 2020 on Shudder.)

It begins with grandpa Gisigu (Stonehorse Lone Goeman) — my favorite character — fishing and ceaning his catch, when the gutted fish suddenly begin flipping and flopping all over the table. He calls his son, Traylor (Michael Greyeyes), the sheriff of the Red Crow Reservation, to have a look. Traylor is already having a bad day; his two sons, Joseph (Forrest Goodluck) and the rebellious Lysol (Kiowa Gordon) are in prison, necessitating a visit to his ex-wife Joss (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers), a nurse. In addition, Joseph is about to become a father with his white girlfriend Charlie (Olive Scriven). In jail, the brothers are suddenly faced with a zombie cellmate.

Months later, the family has built a stronghold to keep out the zombies. But Charlie keeps allowing healthy whites to take refuge there. Joss tries to take care of them, but others, specifically Lysol, sternly disapprove. Soon it's a battle between the brothers: Lysol wants things to remain "pure," while Joseph supports his girlfriend. It all comes down to a many bloody showdowns, including one in a church. While guns are the generally preferred weapon, grandpa Gisigu wields a razor-sharp sword ("you don't have to re-load a sword").

The great Gary Farmer (Dead Man, First Cow) co-stars as the constantly-drinking Moon, who joins Lysol. Blood Quantum (the title comes from an old law that basically tried to keep indigenous people from having rights in the United States) is arguably stronger in its themes and symbols than it is as a total movie. The zombies aren't terribly new (they're fast-moving ones, ugh), although the Lysol and his sidekicks at least have the insidious idea to use captured zombies as weapons against whites. The action and gore is well-done, even if the pace is a teensy bit sluggish. (The overall serious tone sometimes works against the gleeful gore.) But a fine, gloomy synthesizer score by the director and Joe Barrucco — perhaps inspired by John Harrison's music for Romero's Day of the Dead — adds immeasurably, and overall the movie's skill, cleverness, and uniqueness make it a must-see.

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