Reader Request / Shudder Review – Blood Quantum: Colonialism in the Zombie Apocalypse

We get another solid social allegory film involving zombies and it’s awesome.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Traylor (Michael Greyeyes) is the chief of police on the fictional Red Crow reserve of the Mi’kmaq, a real Northeastern First Nations people. On a morning in 1981, his badass veteran father, Gisigu (Stonehorse Lone Goeman), catches a bunch of fish that don’t die, even when gutted. At the same time, Traylor’s ex-wife Joss (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) informs him that his sons Lysol (Kiowa Gordon) and Joseph (Forrest Goodluck) are both in jail… with a man who is vomiting blood. Attacks start to happen all around the reservation where people suddenly find themselves turned into vicious, bloodthirsty zombies. However, it turns out that the people of the Mi’kmaq are immune to the virus. Soon, the Red Crow reserve is seeing an influx of people seeking shelter, and they must decide whether or not they should allow outsiders onto their land.

BloodQuantum - 1RedCrow
It’s a very ’80s apocalypse, honestly.

END SUMMARY

Zombies have been an excellent source of social commentary ever since George Romero first started really bringing the genre to life, so to speak. This film is a prime example of how you can use something like zombies as a way to hold up a mirror to society’s failures. In this case, after the initial outbreak, we get a picture of how society has changed since, with most places aside from Red Crow having fallen. Red Crow reserve is on an island with only one bridge in and out, so the reserve puts in place what has got to be one of the greatest mass anti-zombie devices ever: a series of walls that funnel the zombies into a massive soil tiller. It grinds them into nothing in only a few seconds, saving on bullets, and dumps the remains into the river. I’ve seen other movies do similar things, but this movie actually explains that it was done to save on resources, which is awesome.

BloodQuantum - 2Bridge
The fish are already zombies anyway.

Early on in the film, we get a pretty clear picture of what the allegory is going to be for this story when we first see the deluge of white people showing up to the reservation begging for help and believing that the Red Crow people can somehow “cure” zombification. Two of the members of the tribe start talking about what to do with an infected girl in their own language, only for the man to angrily and repeatedly shout “Speak English.” Because even in a time of crisis, he feels entitled enough to demand that other people, on their own land, speaking their own language, who he is asking for help, accommodate him. One of the Mi’kmaq even refers to the girl as “Karen” by accident. That’s basically what this film is, trying to examine the effects of colonialism, all over again, in the modern day. We have a group of First Nation people who are stuck having to decide if they should risk their safety for the sake of helping outsiders.

BloodQuantum - 3Cast
So many great performances.

The title of the movie, Blood Quantum, relates to the blood quantum laws, a series of laws that determined who qualified as a member of a Native American tribe. Obviously, this idea becomes important in this film, since only members of the Mi’kmaq are shown to be immune to the zombification. The question is how far that immunity extends, something that impacts Joseph’s pregnant girlfriend and their future baby. This movie was written and directed by Jeff Barnaby, who is himself a member of the Mi’kmaq, so I’m sure he’s seen the actual impact of these laws in the past.

BloodQuantum - 4Rhymes
Barnaby’s previous film took place on the same reserve.

As far as Zombie movies go, the action in this is pretty great. There’s a lot of solid zombie effects and the zombies themselves are extremely threatening, being faster than most zombies and able to tear people apart with ease. Most of the members of Red Crow are badasses when the time comes to fight some waves of undead, particularly Gisigu, who uses a katana because “you don’t have to reload a sword.”

BloodQuantum - 5Gisigu
Do. NOT. Mess with Gisigu.

Overall, seriously, just a great movie. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who likes Zombie films. Also, it works pretty well for anyone who likes historical allegory films or just is interested in getting stories focused on another culture.

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