Friday, May 01, 2020

Blood Quantum Brings Plot and Panic in Equal Measure: A Film Review

*full disclosure: a screener of this film was provided by Elevation Pictures.

Director/writer: Jeff Barnaby.

Cast: Michael Greyeyes, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Forrest Goodluck, Kiowa Gordon and Olivia Scriven.

Blood Quantum is a Canadian shot feature from a Canadian director, Jeff Barnaby (Rhymes with Ghouls). The film was shot in the province of Quebec, with help from Telefilm Canada. A film that focuses on Canadian Native issues, Blood Quantum has a unique tale to tell. Told partially with aid from Barnaby and Joe Barrucco's musical score, this feature also offers up a bit of gore, for horror fans. A chainsaw is always handy in a zombie apocalypse. As well, the story focuses on two brothers: Joseph (Forrest Goodluck) and Lysol (Kiowa Gordon), in relationship to their father. One turns into the bad son, while the other struggles to handle his growing family. As the credits roll, most horror fans will find something that resonates with them in Barnaby's latest release.

The film's music is never overwhelming. Barnaby and Barrucco work together to bring new sounds to the screen, in different scenarios. The opening title sequence is well done as a drone moves back and forth over water. The music sounds as confused as the lens and introduces the viewer to the incoming chaos. Another scene transition also offers a bit of Bluegrass music and ups the tempo of the film. The music is consistently changing tempos, along with the action on-screen. The final song is memorable and likely direct from the Mi'kmaq tribe. In English, this song closes out the film with a bit of hope and a bit of sadness. The musical notes are consistently on track and anchor the film.

Being a horror fan, this viewer also enjoyed the special effects and gore. All of the makeup or post-production effects look top notch and add to the film's dire situation. In one scene, a nurse is dispatched with a chainsaw to the face; the scene is a gruesome one. At the mid-point, a character is using a tilling machine to take out hordes of the undead. And, the gore will come at viewers on both the small and big scale. An intimate scene between one of the brothers and an infected woman is a bit hard to watch, but also signals an amping up in the film's action. All of makeup effects help with the film's reality, rather than distracting from it.

The story itself is a good one and focuses on issues in the Mi'kmaq tribe. As an aside, the Mi'kmaq tribe has a long history with the French within Quebec, both in culture and warfare, over hundreds of years. In the film, the Mi'kmaq are immune to a rapidly spreading virus. Their immunity allows them to survive in an environment that is becoming increasingly more dangerous. Only the townies, those not on the reservation, are infected. Meanwhile, the brothers Joseph and Lysol are dealing with events, differently. Lysol turns to drugs for distraction, while Joseph leans on his pregnant girlfriend, Charlie (Olivia Scriven). Their paths cross again and again, in increasingly more violent ways. A Native story, focusing on Native issues, Blood Quantum brings something unique to the usual zombie apocalypse tale.

Though, the zombies are not really what matters to the plot; it is the characters and how they relate to each other that is really important. Traylor (Michael Greyeyes), initially the protagonist, is the initial lynch pin - which holds his Tribe together. He is the one who begins the film's interaction with the virus. As the virus grows stronger, Traylor must deal with more and more difficult situations. As an intertitle "Six Months Later" fills the screen, it now becomes clear that the "zeds" will not be going away anytime soon. During the interim, the surviving characters bring their own issues to the screen, with many of the characters having long histories with each other. This makes the characters complex and only the zombies are one-sided. And, the zombies can represent: colonialism, fading European domination, a degrading environment, or just blood splatter. Each possibility will be amplified based on what the viewer brings with them to the film.

Blood Quantum just received a recent release on Shudder, across the United Kingdom and the U.S. As well, this title is now available on most Canadian, Digital services - according to the director himself. A great Canadian horror film, in a country that does not produce many, Blood Quantum brings a compelling story about both brotherhood and fatherhood to viewers this month. Not shying away from violence nor bloodshed, this title also introduces a fluid soundtrack that keeps the film sounding great. Never dull, Blood Quantum offers a lot in its 100 minute runtime. Finally, here is one vote in favour of more horror fans seeing this uniquely Mi'kmaq zombie tale.

Overall: 7.75 out of 10.

*blood quantum laws define Native American identity by percentages of ancestry.

A Red Band trailer on 28DLA, for Blood Quantum: A Red Band Trailer for Blood Quantum via Shudder

Blood Quantum at Prospector Films, this title's production house: Blood Quantum at Prospector Films

Elevation Pictures, the U.S. distributor with clips and trailers: Blood Quantum at Elevation Pictures

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