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#TIFF19 Review: Blood Quantum (Midnight Madness)

September 7, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

A bloody, gory and socially conscious Indigenous zombie movie, Blood Quantum explores what happens when a plague that turns people into flesh-eating zombies ravages the outside world, and everyone on a First Nations reserve somehow has immunity to the virus. The film takes place on the Red Crow Reservation, a Mi’gmaq community, where the elder Gisigu (Stonehorse Lone Goeman) first notices that something is wrong when the fish that he has just gutted start flopping around. It’s not long before the undead start showing up hungry for human flesh, prompting them to blockade their community to keep the infected white people out, as they make use of axes, swords, shotguns, chainsaws and even a snowplow to lay waste to the zombie hordes.

But survivors also seek refuge in their community, forcing them to grapple with whether or not to help those from communities who have historically oppressed them, and now once again threaten their extinction. The other characters include Sheriff Traylor (Michael Greyeyes), his ex-wife Joss (Elle-Maija Tailfeathers), and their teenaged son Joseph (Forrest Goodluck), who is constantly getting into trouble and has gotten his white girlfriend Charlie (Olivia Scriven) pregnant, leading to concerns about the health of the baby. There’s also Joseph’s half-brother Lysol (Kiowa Gordon), a reckless punk who takes delight in being a ruthless zombie killer.

Directed by Jeff Barnaby, following up his debut feature Rhymes for Young Ghouls, Blood Quantum works on two levels. It’s a hardcore zombie movie that offers its fair share of blood and guts, with no shortage of heads being lopped off and intestines being ripped out and devoured, but it’s also an allegorical tale about colonialism, genocide, and racially motivated violence. The film is a bit uneven in terms of character development, and not all of the human story lines are equally well fleshed out. But when the film hits its stride during the violent set-pieces, it’s often a blast to watch. It’s also quite stylish on a visual level, with a gritty, heavy metal look to it and several brief but eye-popping uses of animation to serve as a bridge between scenes. It’s a lot of fun, and played very well with the ravenous Midnight Madness crowd on opening night.

Forrest Goodluck, Michael Greyeyes and Kiowa Gordon in Blood Quantum

Public Screenings:

Thursday, September 5th – 11:59 PM at Ryerson Theatre

Friday, September 6th – 6:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

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