There is such passion behind Blood Quantum that brings its own unique lens to the table, but neither the character drama or the zombie action can stop this Shudder original from feeling like wasted potential.
The dead are coming back to life outside the isolated Mi'gMaq reserve of Red Crow, except for its Indigenous inhabitants who are strangely immune to the zombie plague. As the citizens of surrounding cities flee to the "Mi'gmaq" reserve in search of refuge from the outbreak, the community must reckon with whether to let the outsiders in - and thus risk not just the extinction of their tribe but of humanity, period.
Zombies movies often have a distinctive point of view when it comes to messages on social class, and is particularly effective given our current Covid climate in which films like Blood Quantum can't help but feel relevant, adding some neat commentary to the outlandish world within its narrative and within real life. When all is said and done, if nothing this entire Covid situation lends an extra layer which elevates the tension, allowing Blood Quantum to feed off of social commentary in aid of its core drama. Horror films as such have always been an effective mode for projection for conveying specific social commentaries that are important within current cultural affairs. Many have done it before with the likes of Get Out, Night & Dawn of the Dead etc, and horror often works its best when it has its finger on the pulse of society. The horror genre has been more than capable of conveying an important message, and whilst Blood Quantum has this element down, it's everything that surrounds it that lacks the clarity needed in crafting a horror movie worth drooling over.
Director Jeff Barnaby took clear inspiration from Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead, in portraying characters and a narrative which would intrigue its audience enough to go and do their research on Indigenous culture after, researching on the historical context that would benefit our viewing experience in the understanding of its characters motives. In an interview with Canada's Star newspaper, Barnaby cites his inspiration for Blood Quantum as the 1984 documentary Incident at Restigouche, which details armed police raids on the Restigouche Reserve over fishing rights. When equip with this sort of background context, you could be mistaken for appreciating the film more for what it is, and I found myself admiring the layered approach to this zombie film. In saying this, was it properly conveyed through the film itself? Not entirely, and what we are left with is a half-baked concept with more up its sleeve than it let on to.
Blood Quantum starts off strong, setting the tone off right with enough intrigue in its own design. The tone is right there from the word go, and we are immediately whipped into a world in which Indigenous lives are immune to the virus. Straight away Blood Quantum proves that is a zombie movie with something to say, even if its message gets lost in the chaos of it all. My problem here is not with the message and the narrative, which perhaps is this one's strong asset, but it is in fact the zombie aspect itself which adds no new flavours or inspirations to an already worn out sub-genre. The gore is there, and tensions rise with effective results close to the end of Blood Quantum, but everything in between just seems to fall flat, and packs a very deflated punch.
Despite this, the latter half of Blood Quantum is what's most effective, and there is a couple of nice twists towards the end which electrify some moderate zombie sequences, Some of these scenes are pleasantly unpredictable, and carry some emotional baggage, but aren't far in likeness from some of the shambling zombie outings from the likes of The Walking Dead. While I can admire these fresh new elements add depth to this bog-standard zombie flick, it is all-in-all a bog standard zombie flick that aside from an interesting point of view hasn't much else on its brains.