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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.04.19] Canada horror

The entertainment landscape is so full of zombie projects that it takes something really special to get me excited about something that includes the word "zombie" in the description. Enter Jeff Barnaby, the Canadian filmmaker who erupted on the scene in 2013 with the excellent Rhymes for Young Ghouls (review).

From the get-go, it was clear that Barnaby has a very unique sense of artistry and as an Indigenous filmmaker, his approach to storytelling also brings a distinct voice to his work so when it was announced that his follow-up was a zombie movie, I was intrigued.

Blood Quantum unfolds in 1981 in the fictional Red Crow Reserve and follows Chief Traylor (Michael Greyeyes) as he goes about his day, following up on calls to the station. While at first said calls don't seem out of the ordinary, the day slowly get stranger until all hell breaks loose after Taylor and Jess (Elle-Maija Tailfeathers) pick up his boys Joseph (Forrest Goodluck) and Lysol (Kiowa Gordon) from the nearby town jail. Soon after, Taylor and the rest of the residents of the reserve come to realize that they're immune to a zombie infection which is spreading through town at an alarming pace.

Barnaby sets up this alternate history and then fasts forward six months to a reserve that is now the only safe place left for the non-infected - indigenous or otherwise. The group has developed a method of survival but when their compound is overrun by zombies, Taylor and his family is forced to make some difficult decisions.

It's a straightforward story of survival but what makes Blood Quantum interesting is everything else that Barnaby infuses into it, including the subtext. The fact that the story is told from the point of view of indigenous people, giving them power and agency, is made particularly poignant in the context of colonialism and while the theme is clear, it's not forced. Instead, the movie forges ahead in endlessly entertaining fashion occasionally even pushing the boundaries of what we expect from a zombie movie.

Featuring geysers of blood, impressive prosthetics and visual effects, a John Carpenter-inspired score from Barnaby and Joe Barrucco, and loaded with a sense of humour that is sometimes lost in horror movies, Blood Quantum overcomes its challenges to emerge as an essential new entry into the crowded field of zombie entertainment. Don't miss it.

Blood Quantum plays again at VIFF on October 5. For more details and ticket information visit the festival website.

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