31 days of horror movies: Jeff Barnaby’s Blood Quantum is a zombie film with a message

Blood Quantum. Image Courtesy Shudder
Blood Quantum. Image Courtesy Shudder /

I was all set to talk about an entirely different film for today’s installment of 31 Days of Horror Movies, but then I heard about the death of Jeff Barnaby. Shudder fans will know him as the filmmaker for Blood Quantum, one of the best originals to hit the horror streaming service, and that’s the movie I will now be featuring.

Jeff Barnaby not only directed Blood Quantum, he also wrote and edited it, so it was definitely a passion project for him, and that definitely shows when you watch the film. In this version of the fabled zombie apocalypse, set mostly on the Red Crow Indian Reservation in Quebec, the first hint that something is wrong comes in the form of salmon who wiggle around after being gutted. Next, sheriff Traylor (Michael Greyeyes) humanely shoots a dying dog, which also comes back to life.

Ultimately, the zombie event spreads, but it turns out that the non-white residents of Red Crow are immune due to their First Nation blood. Led by Traylor, who has his sons Joseph and Lysol with him, the group often allows their compound to become a refuge for outsiders. This doesn’t sit well with Lysol, who resents the fact that white people, who are a danger due to their non-immune status, are allowed in. Joseph is grateful for that, because it allows his pregnant white girlfriend Charlie to stay safely with him.

Lysol has a volatile temper, so it’s only a matter of time until his anger and resentment boils over, and the final third of Blood Quantum is filled with death and bloodshed. It’s also a tense, emotional film with a lot of social commentary buried in the grue.

Blood Quantum
Blood Quantum. Image Courtesy Shudder /

Barnaby’s film takes its title from the US-Canadian blood quantum laws, used to determine indigeneity based on the percentage of indigenous blood in a person. It’s a brilliant plot point for this type of movie, and it turns racism and bigotry on its head. The relationship between Joseph and Lysol is especially compelling; they love each other, but they are at opposite ends of the spectrum in so many ways.

Blood Quatum has a lot to offer for fans of zombie films

A large quantity of the actors in Blood Quantum are indigenous (both Canadian and US), which is incredibly important given the content of the film. Whether or not you are interested in the socio-political overtones, Blood Quantum has a great story, a solid cast and plenty of bloody action. It’s a zombie film worthy of your time, and it makes me wonder what else Jeff Barnaby would have created if he had not passed away so young.

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How do you think Blood Quantum ranks in the genre of zombie films? Give us your mini-reviews in the comments section.