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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Review: Blood Quantum

Director: Jeff Barnaby
Screenplay: Jeff Barnaby
Year: 2020

Every time a new zombie movie pops out, I have to admit that I don’t feel too excited to watch it. The zombie theme has been beaten to death, brought back to life, and beaten again so that there is not much more left to do in the genre. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when Shudder decided to astound everyone with this new zombie movie I was not too excited and my reaction was to look out what it did differently in the zombie genre that hasn’t been done before, to which the answer is that it takes place in a Native American Indians reserve and that their culture is important for the plot.

Like many other zombie movies, “Blood Quantum” starts with the realization that the dead are coming back to live with a cannibalistic instinct. This phenomenon takes place in a desolated Native American reserve. However, the Native Americans that live there seem to be the only ones immune to this disease, which allows them to survive and establish a stronghold where to live. People that are not immune to the disease start reaching the reserve and the locals must decide if they put themselves at risk to help them or if they leave them to their own luck.

From the theme of the movie falls off the strong commentary towards the colonization that Native American Indians have suffered from decades, a fact that leads to thinking that it was inspired by the style of the mythical George Romero, who was the pioneer in the use of zombies as a metaphor of the social situation in the United States at that moment. Director and screenwriter Jeff Barnaby (“Rhymes of Young Ghouls”), who is a Native American himself, presents a situation in which white people, who serve as a metaphor for the colonizers, seek refuge in those they had stepped over for years. However, these persons do it in a disloyal way, hiding information that puts all those in the reserve at risk for trying to selfishly try to save their own life. 

Plenty of the effort for this movie goes into the script, but this doesn’t mean in the slightest that the visuals are neglected. A great deal of the movie is presented with saturated images that offer vibrant colors that jump out of the screen and that highlights the violence and gore. The gore in this movie caught me by surprise in a good way as I was not expecting the amount of explicit violence that is presented and how well the practical effects are executed, another element that plays in favor of its enjoyment.

The script by Jeff Barnaby comes off as hard to follow in parts because of the amount of information in the subtext that is not explicitly explained and at a first glance may come out as rushed. To be able to get all those details it requires the total attention of the viewer and maybe even multiple viewings to understand them and it’s definitely not one of those movies that you can put in the background while you do other stuff. Even the title of the movie ends up being slightly complex to understand, but of vital importance to the plot. If you are looking for an answer, blood quantum is a term used to determine the percentage of the lineage of a person.

The weak spot of the movie comes from some characters and acting. Most of the cast, led by Michael Greyeyes (“Fear the Walking Dead”) and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers do a great job but the characters of Joseph and Lysol (yes, Lysol), interpreted by Forrest Goodluck (“The Revenant”) and Kiowa Gordon (“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse”) respectively, do not connect with the viewer. These characters are important as they represent both sides of how the Native American community feels, but they are presented in such distant extremes that one comes off as over the top while the other lacks charisma.

“Blood Quantum” was released as a surprise by Shudder and what a pleasant surprise it was. It manages to use a wear-down genre and refresh it with new and exciting ideas while it allows being influenced by the classics of Romero and company. The complex and emotive story based on Native American culture and the abuse they have suffered blends with the extreme violence and the graphic gore and leaves as a product a fascinating movie that gets to be much more than just another simple zombie movie.

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