NOTE: Here is my review from Soda & Telepaths that was posted back on April 30, 2020
Zombies, one of the most overused creatures in media today. If you name a genre then sure enough, there’ll be a zombie-filled version of it somewhere. There are zombie romance films, zombie westerns, hell a little over a week ago I was watching a Disney zombie musical that was popular enough to warrant a sequel. Zombies are everywhere and everyone uses them but sometimes they get used for something special. Every now and then a zombie property breaks out from the bonds of the genre to actually be something special. Blood Quantum is one of those movies.
Blood Quantum focuses on a little indigenous community living at the Red Crow Reserve, where life is so mundane that shitting from a bridge sounds like a good idea and nothing exciting ever happens… you know, until dead things stop staying dead and everything begins its inevitable descent into hell. We only spend a short amount of the movie before the infection itself hits the people and most of it we spend roughly 6 months after the initial wave of zombies and everything is different, people have semi adapted to the new normal.
The indigenous people of Red Crow are seemingly immune to turning into zombies, though they can still be killed by them. It turns out though that a lack of indigenous blood (the film isn’t called Blood Quantum for nothing) means that one bite turns you into a zombie, but the indigenous people can be bitten endlessly which means they have the ability to survive long enough to have something resembling a normal society.
They turn a piece of their land into a refuge for survivors from this zombie apocalypse, creating a community that’s effectively run by the imposing and kind Traylor (Michael Greyeyes). They create a system that allows the growing community to survive even in the face of a thundering horde of bloodthirsty zombies coming right for them… well, survive for now at least
I don’t even think I need to say it but Blood Quantum is extremely blunt about being a tale about colonialism and the pain and destruction it has caused. The zombies are the colonizers, the little community that is a mix of indigenous and white people are trying to work together in order to survive, the messages are extremely clear and you could probably guess just from looking at the poster what the zombies represent here. It’s not subtle… and is also something that is probably better studied and explained by an indigenous person and not this little white boy.
I can see, understand and appreciate the message of Blood Quantum, even give a brief overview of it, but I strongly suggest looking up indigenous writers who will be able to explain the messages and symbolism better than I ever could. I can certainly explore it as a fan of horror and of film, this brief review is meant to tell you if you’ll like it but if you want to actually dive into the nitty gritty details of the themes… well, first I’d need a bigger wordcount than I’m going to have here and second, that is better left to someone from the culture this is about. So, back to why this is an excellent horror film.
Within 30 minutes, Blood Quantum makes it brutally clear that you are in for a ride that won’t hold anything back. From the moment the zombies make themselves known the audience is shown, fairly explicitly, that your normal limits don’t apply here and anyone and everyone is up for grabs. It’s brutal and it’s visceral, never once holding back on the spurting red stuff. It assumes the audience knows about these creatures so it can focus more on the character and the key things rather than explaining what you probably picked up about zombies through cultural osmosis. This movie is about character, themes and scaring the shit out of you and it doesn’t let anything get in the way of that.
It’s nice to see a zombie movie that remembers how shockingly brutal that kind of film usually is and actually one-ups a lot of what’s been done before. There were several moments where even I, a horror fanboy who loves the more effects-heavy gore flicks, was taken aback by just what Blood Quantum was doing, both because it was disturbing but because they knew when to let the gore be fun and used its moments of shock to further character or theme, never feeling gratuitous because it needs to be this confronting to make its points and to stand out in the genre it’s in.
What also stands out is the stellar cast, from the spectacular Michael Greyeyes who just commands the screen any time he’s on it to Kiowa Gordon and Forrest Goodluck as brothers Lysol and Joseph who are almost complete opposites which makes their scenes together absolute magic. The entire cast is incredible, not a weak performance in the entire film. From start to finish, every character makes you love them and pulls you into this world and when everything goes zombie-shaped, you root for them to make it through.
The MVP of Blood Quantum, easily, is Stonehorse Lone Goeman as Gisigu who spends so much of the movie running around with a gigantic sword lopping off zombie heads and delighting me one minute before breaking my heart with a single line. It’s right at the end, I won’t spoil what it was (though it’s basically one of the key messages of the film put bluntly into dialogue), but I haven’t been this emotionally backhanded by a line of dialogue since Killmonger’s last line in Black Panther.
The only thing Blood Quantum suffers from is being another zombie movie. They’re overused and even with all the new twists and the messaging and the representation (it’s refreshing seeing indigenous characters who actually feel like characters and not a list of cliches, it’s almost like letting people tell their own stories from their own perspectives is important and beneficial to everyone, who knew?) It’s still a zombie movie and I’ve seen so many zombie movies that even if the film is special (and this one is) I’ve still got too much familiarity with the quirks of the genre and thus I can kind of see where certain moments are going to go. Still, that being said, if you’ve still got room for one more bit of zombie media then this will do quite nicely.