In Blood Quantum, things begin to spiral out of control on the isolated Mi’gMaq reserve of Red Crow when an unseen virus begins to turn the locals into blood-thirsty zombies. As the dead begin to come back to life, the Indigenous inhabitants discover that they are strangely immune to the plague and are forced to care for those in the area who are desperately seeking sanctuary themselves.
Directed by Jeff Barnaby, Quantum takes the all-too-familiar zombie genre and somehow makes it feel fresh and engaging. While the structure follows the necessary zombie tropes, the setting and its unique voice breathe new life into the film. By framing the narrative through the lens of the Indigenous people, Barnaby’s vision balances blood and carnage with social commentary, making the film both fun and thought-provoking at the same time. Led by an especially strong performance by Michael Greyeyes as the courageous but emotionally broken Traylor, Quantum’s solid casting helps the story feel more personal as opposed to simply another horror epic. However, the struggle within Quantum runs much deeper than a fight against the killer virus. Along with the blood and guts, the battle within Quantum also reaches to the heart of a culture that speaks at a historical level.
More specifically, while Quantum definitely entertains, the film allows Barnaby to explore tensions between Indigenous people and the white community. As the virus begins to spread throughout Red Crow, the fight for survive begins to also expose the underlying racial tensions that run throughout the community. (Incidentally, the film’s title refers to a colonial blood measurement system that is used to determine the validity of one’s aboriginal status.) As such, while some Mi’gMaq are willing to see potential for the cultures to build a new future together, there are others who remain entrenched in their hatred. While the walls literally keep those infected at bay, they also serve as a visual metaphor for the self-protection of a people that have been taken advantage of over the years. While white families are invited inside the compound, they are met with a suspicious eye, both as a potential carrier of the virus but also because of past experiences. As a result, Quantum highlights the struggle to build something new when history remains such an obstacle.
Questions of what it means to tear down painful barriers and begin again are often painful and, thankfully, Quantum is willing to explore the impact of such decisions. Who can be trusted when history has shown us others have not been trustworthy before? Can forgiveness break through in an effort to move forward? What does it mean to celebrate our differences but come together as one? Even though it’s not uncommon for horror films to delve into social commentary, it’s questions such as these that help give Quantum its unique voice and soul.
While the zombie genre may have been mined frequently, thankfully Barnaby is able to breathe fresh air into his horror epic through his passion to explore new ground. Strong performances, a solid script and poignant direction give the film its unique voice and, as a result, Blood Quantum definitely rises above the [zombie] herd.
To hear audio of our conversation with Jeff Barnaby, click here.
Blood Quantum brings the carnage to VOD on Tuesday, April 28th, 2020.