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Blood Quantum (film)

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Blood Quantum
Promotional release poster
Directed byJeff Barnaby
Written byJeff Barnaby
Produced byJohn Christou
Robert Vroom
StarringMichael Greyeyes
Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers
Forrest Goodluck
Kiowa Gordon
Brandon Oakes
Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs
Gary Farmer
CinematographyMichel St-Martin
Edited byJeff Barnaby
Prospector Films
Distributed byElevation Pictures
Release date
  • September 5, 2019 (2019-09-05) (TIFF)[1]
Running time
96 minutes

Blood Quantum is a 2019 Canadian horror film written, directed, and edited by Jeff Barnaby and starring Michael Greyeyes, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Forrest Goodluck, Kiowa Gordon, Brandon Oakes, Olivia Scriven, Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, and Gary Farmer.[2][3] The film depicts the effects of a zombie uprising on a First Nations reserve whose residents are immune to contracting the plague because of their indigenous heritage, but must still cope with the consequences of its effects on the world around them, including white refugees seeking shelter on the reserve.[3]

Blood Quantum premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, where it was named second runner-up for the People's Choice Award: Midnight Madness. The film was made available for streaming on Shudder in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland on April 28, 2020,[4] and has received generally positive reviews from critics, receiving the most nominations of any film at the 9th Canadian Screen Awards with 10 nominations,[5] ultimately winning seven.[6]


In 1981, on the Red Crow Indian Reservation in Quebec, Canada, fisherman Gisigu catches a number of salmon, and observes that they continue to move after being gutted. Elsewhere that morning, Gisigu's son, indigenous sheriff Traylor, responds to a call about a dying dog that belongs to his ex-wife, nurse Joss. Traylor euthanizes the dog by gunshot. He goes to visit Joss, and learns that their son Joseph has been arrested for vandalism in nearby Hollarbaster and is in jail with his half-brother Lysol. Traylor then visits Gisigu, who shows him the gutted yet moving salmon. Joss's dead dog reanimates in the trunk of Traylor's police car, and Traylor shoots it. Gisigu and Traylor set the dog and the fish on fire.

Traylor and Joss head into town to free Joseph from jail. Traylor, Joseph, Lysol, and police officer Shamu encounter an ill, violent man in the jail who bites Joseph on the arm. Joseph goes to a hospital, where his white, pregnant girlfriend Charlie is waiting. That night, Traylor responds to a call from an indigenous man named Shooker. Traylor enters Shooker's house and is attacked and bitten by Shooker's white girlfriend, whom Traylor beats with the butt of a shotgun. Traylor and Shooker head to a bridge where Joss, Joseph, and Charlie have found themselves after having escaped the hospital in an ambulance.

Six months later, the outbreak of flesh-eating "zeds"[7] has become widespread, and the Red Crow Reservation has been turned into a fortified compound. Its residents have learned that indigenous people cannot be infected by the "zed" plague, though white people can. Lysol has become increasingly aggressive towards Joseph and others' tendency to bring outsiders—such as a man and his young daughter, the latter of whom was bitten by an infected person, as well as a girl named Lilith, who hides the fact that she has also been infected—to the compound.

That night, at Lysol's shelter away from the compound, Joseph finds a now-zombified Lilith chewing on Lysol's penis as he is crying on the floor from the pain. Joseph, Lysol and Moon then drive back to the compound with Lilith in restraints. Believing that the policy of letting in white survivors led to his disfigurement, Lysol snaps, stabbing Joseph with a knife, and lets Lilith loose inside the compound. Traylor and Gisigu, who went on a mission to eliminate zombies at a gas station with fellow tribesmen Bumper and Shooker, return to the compound to find it overrun with zombies. They learn that Joss, Joseph, Charlie, and eight other survivors are trapped in the basement of the compound. In the process of rescuing them, Shooker is able to drive away some of the survivors but Traylor is eaten alive by zombies to allow his family escape as they weren't able to get in the car in time.

Joss, Joseph and Charlie escape with Gisigu and Bumper. While Gisigu and Joseph enter a church to stop two associates of Lysol from murdering a group of survivors, Lysol finds Joss, Charlie and Bumper. Lysol backstabs Bumper heavily wounding him, and Joss shoots Lysol, but not before Lysol is able to unleash a zombie from the trunk of a car. The zombie bites Charlie, and Joseph arrives and kills the zombie. Joseph and Gisigu lead a wounded Lysol away from the scene, and Joseph stabs Lysol. Gisigu lets off a gunshot into the air, alerting zombies to the location where Lysol is; the zombies proceed to eat Lysol alive.

They think all hope is lost as the one remaining boat able to allow their escape is burning. Shooker with someone else comes back for them with two boats and takes Bumper with him while Joseph, Charlie and Joss set out into a large body of water with the other boat. Gisigu, armed with a sword, stays behind on land to fight off the zombies, and seems to survive standing with the last zombie's head in his hand. On the boat, Charlie gives birth to a baby girl. Charlie, feeling she is about to succumb to her bite wound, asks Joseph to kill her before she transforms into a zombie, and he mournfully shoots her in the head. The survivors boat continues to drift in the water, their fate unknown.

Cultural Elements[edit]

Language – The Mi’kmaq language, the Native tongue of Traylor and his family, is spoken throughout the movie. The Mi’kmaq language is spoken by Indigenous characters to discuss what to do with non-Indigenous refugees who demand they speak English. A tribe called Geek describes this as a situation where the Indigenous language holds power over English; English is the language begging to be heard.[8]

Braids – In the film, the main character Traylor wears his hair in double braids from beginning to end. For Traylor, this is a subtle expression of Native identity and cultural preservation. Activist writer Brianna Holt explains that braids are a common style sported by Indigenous people, having the belief that the three strands in a braid represent the body, mind, and spirit. [9]

Music – The ending of the film features traditional Native American music that highlights the dramatic, tragic ending. J. Bryan Burton of the University of Pennsylvania states that music serves numerous functions in traditional Indian culture, including religious ceremonies, healing ceremonies, work songs, game songs, courtship, storytelling, songs to bring success in hunting, agriculture, and war, and social songs and dances.[10]


An underlying theme evident from beginning to end in Blood Quantum is that of generational trauma and the historical tension that exists between white and Native individuals. Native movie reviewer Eve Tushnet writes that we are bound up in one another’s lives, white and Native inextricably linked by present bonds of love as well as past bonds of injustice. [11]

Native American’s roamed the “United States” hundreds of years before white colonizers showed up, and debate over the rightful owners of the land have never been settled. The concept of Natives being immune to the virus and non-natives being susceptible to getting infected is a subtle way of questioning who the rightful owners of the continental United States are, another theme present in the film. Brian Tallerico of Roger Ebert Reviews states that it’s almost as if the planet is trying to give itself back to the ones who truly deserve it. [12]

The characters of Blood Quantum are plagued with real world problems such as addiction, and the issues associated with them. A lack of discipline in times of struggle causes people to fall into turmoil and cause the demise of themselves, as well as the people around them. The best example of this is Lysol's transformation from hero to villain in the film—he goes from protecting the reservation to inadvertently destroying it. Lysol is a symbol of humankind's downfall being a direct result of its violent and arrogant tendencies. [13]



Blood Quantum was filmed in 2018, primarily at the Kahnawake and Listuguj reserves in Quebec. Additional footage was shot in the city of Campbellton, New Brunswick.[14][15]

The film's title refers to blood quantum laws, which have been used in the United States and Canada to determine indigeneity based on the percentage of one's indigenous ancestry.[15][16] Barnaby has described the film as offering commentary on colonialism.[16]

The film is set in 1981 because that was the year in which a force of game wardens, fisheries officers and Quebec Provincial Police officers raided Listuguj, arresting and beating many of its members and confiscating their fishing equipment. Those members who were not incarcerated erected barricades, and in retaliation the aforementioned authorities conducted a second raid.[17] In addition to zombie films, the film was also influenced by Incident at Restigouche, Alanis Obomsawin's influential 1984 documentary film about the Listuguj raids, which Barnaby had all of the actors watch before commencing production.[18]


Blood Quantum was brought to the Cannes Film Market in May 2019 as part of "Fantastic 7", a program of genre films sponsored by various international film festivals, where it was sponsored by the Toronto International Film Festival.[19] Its public world premiere took place at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival,[20] where it was named second runner-up for the People's Choice Award: Midnight Madness.[21]

The film was acquired for international distribution on the Shudder streaming service in 2019, with Canadian streaming rights to be held by Crave.[22] The film was made available for streaming on Shudder in the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland on April 28, 2020.[4]


On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 90% based on 94 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Blood Quantum blends bloody horror with sociopolitical subtext, taking a fresh bite out of the crowded zombie genre in the bargain."[23] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 63 out of 100 based on 11 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[24]

Elisabeth Vincentelli of The New York Times gave the film a mostly positive review, writing that its "central premise is inspired: When dead people come back to ersatz life, it turns out that Indigenous folks are immune — a sardonic twist on their ancestors succumbing to diseases imported by the European settlers."[25] Matthew Monagle of The Austin Chronicle gave the film a score of three-and-a-half stars out of five, and wrote that it "rejects the default white gaze of so many horror films, choosing to tell a story through an unapologetically Indigenous lens."[26] Joe Lipsett of Bloody Disgusting wrote that "Blood Quantum serves both as a reasonably entertaining zombie film, but more importantly, as a vital socio-political critique of real historical events in Canada."[27] Shea Vassar, a Cherokee Nation staff writer of Film Daze, wrote that "Barnaby is ushering in a new era of Indigenous filmmaking. While still addressing some of the post-colonial pain that exists within communities today, Blood Quantum is a refreshing break from the same sad drama that is usually regurgitated when filmmakers, even those from an Indigenous or Native background, attempt to talk about the Indian experience."[28]

The Guardian's Benjamin Lee gave the film three out of five stars, writing that it is "best taken as a violent slab of late-night exploitation, made notable by a powerful conceit and some evocative visuals. It's just a shame that the execution can't quite catch up with the premise."[29] Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com gave the film two-and-a-half out of four stars, commending its action and social commentary but criticizing its "poor performances and awkward dialogue".[30] David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a grade of "C+", writing: "The filmmaking in Blood Quantum is seldom as compelling as its premise, and it's frustrating to watch such a fresh take on the zombie genre be mired in several of its most rotten tropes. [...] But when it works it works".[31]


Award Date of Ceremony Category Nominees Result Reference
Canadian Screen Awards May 20, 2021 Best Actor Michael Greyeyes Won [32][6]
Best Original Screenplay Jeff Barnaby Nominated
Best Art Direction/Production Design Louisa Schabas, Sylvain Lemaitre Won
Best Cinematography Michel St-Martin Nominated
Best Costume Design Noémi Poulin Won
Best Editing Jeff Barnaby Won
Best Makeup Erik Gosselin, Joan-Patricia Parris, Jean-Michel Rossignol, Nancy Ferlatte Won
Best Casting in a Film Rene Haynes Nominated
Best Visual Effects Joshua Sherrett, Barbara Rosenstein, Ibi Atemie, David Atexide, Juan Carlos Ferrá, Alex Flynn, Andrei Gheorghiu, Felix Sherrett-Brown, Ali Hamidikia, Tony Wu Won
Best Stunt Coordination Jean Frenette, Jean-François Lachapelle Won
Prix Iris June 6, 2021 Best Art Direction Sylvain Lemaitre, Louisa Schabas Nominated [33]
Best Costume Design Noémi Poulin Nominated
Best Hair Marcelo Padovani Nominated
Best Makeup Joan-Patricia Parris, Nancy Ferlatte, Erik Gosselin Won
Best Visual Effects Barbara Rosenstein, Josh Sherrett Nominated
Vancouver International Film Festival 2019 Best Canadian Film Runner-up [34]


  1. ^ "Blood Quantum". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved August 24, 2019.
  2. ^ Miska, Brad (May 1, 2019). "First Look at Cannes Zombie Title 'Blood Quantum'". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Brown, Todd (April 5, 2018). "Michael Greyeyes Anchors The Cast Of Jeff Barnaby's Blood Quantum". Screen Anarchy. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Mack, Andrew (April 27, 2020). "Blood Quantum: Shudder Surprise Drops Jeff Barnaby's Indigenous Canadian Zombie Thriller". Screen Anarchy. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  5. ^ Ahearn, Victoria (2021-03-30). "'Blood Quantum,' 'Schitt's Creek' top Canadian Screen Award nominations". CP24. Retrieved 2022-06-28.
  6. ^ a b Ramachandran, Naman (2021-05-21). "'Schitt's Creek,' 'Blood Quantum' Triumph at Canadian Screen Awards". Variety. Retrieved 2022-06-28.
  7. ^ Knight, Chris (April 23, 2020). "Blood Quantum is a zombie movie with First Nations politics on the brain, says Chris Knight". The Telegram. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  8. ^ DeShaw, Nicholas (October 7, 2022). "Native Languages in Film: Where can we go from here?". A Tribe Called Geek.
  9. ^ Holt, Brianna. "For many Native Americans, hair tells a life story". Business Insider. Retrieved 2024-04-28.
  10. ^ Burton, Bryan (1993). Moving within the circle : contemporary native American music and dance. Internet Archive. Danbury, CT : World Music Press. ISBN 978-0-937203-41-5.
  11. ^ Tushnet, Eve (May 22, 2020). "'Bood Quantum': A Zombie Film with A Conscience".
  12. ^ Tallerico, Brian. "Blood Quantum movie review & film summary (2020) | Roger Ebert". Roger Ebert Reviews. Retrieved 2024-04-28.
  13. ^ Cuffari, Steve (2020-08-19). "Why Blood Quantum Is The Best Horror Movie Of The 21st Century". ScreenRant. Retrieved 2024-04-28.
  14. ^ Malyk, Lauren (April 5, 2018). "Filming set to begin on Jeff Barnaby's Blood Quantum". Playback. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  15. ^ a b Yamato, Jen (May 8, 2020). "How indigenous zombie horror film 'Blood Quantum' became prescient in the pandemic". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  16. ^ a b Ahearn, Victoria (September 7, 2019). "In Jeff Barnaby's Blood Quantum, zombies offer commentary on colonialism". Toronto Star. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  17. ^ Chelsea Vowel, "Notes from an Apocalypse". The Walrus, July 6, 2020.
  18. ^ Sarah-Tai Black, "Blood Quantum’s Jeff Barnaby on the history and horror of his Indigenous zombie movie: ‘I feel like I barely got out of this one alive’". The Globe and Mail, April 27, 2020.
  19. ^ Lang, Jamie (May 8, 2019). "Cannes Fantastic 7 First-Ever Lineup for Genre Projects". Variety. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  20. ^ Howell, Peter (July 31, 2019). "Indigenous films highlight Canadian slate at TIFF 2019". Toronto Star. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  21. ^ Vlessing, Etan (September 15, 2019). "Toronto: Taika Waititi's 'Jojo Rabbit' Wins Audience Award". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
  22. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (June 26, 2019). "AMC Streamer Shudder Picks Up Zombie Thriller 'Blood Quantum' For US, UK & Australia; XYZ Strikes Int'l Pacts". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  23. ^ "Blood Quantum (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  24. ^ "Blood Quantum Reviews". Metacritic. CBS. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
  25. ^ Vincentelli, Elisabeth (April 28, 2020). "'Blood Quantum' Review: Inspired Splatter". The New York Times. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  26. ^ Monagle, Matthew (May 8, 2020). "Blood Quantum". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  27. ^ Lipsett, Joe (April 29, 2020). "[Review] Shudder's Indigenous Zombie Film 'Blood Quantum' is Entertaining AND Important". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  28. ^ Vassar, Shea (2020-04-28). "'Blood Quantum' Review: A Zombie Tale with an Indigenous Twist". Film Daze. Retrieved 2020-12-27.
  29. ^ Lee, Benjamin (April 29, 2020). "Blood Quantum review – grimy zombie horror offers intriguing twist". The Guardian. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  30. ^ Tallerico, Brian (April 28, 2020). "Blood Quantum movie review & film summary (2020)". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  31. ^ Ehrlich, David (April 28, 2020). "'Blood Quantum' Review: Indigenous Canadian Zombie Movie Bites Into Colonialism". IndieWire. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  32. ^ Brent Furdyk (March 30, 2021). "Canadian Screen Awards Announces 2021 Film Nominations". ET Canada. Archived from the original on March 30, 2021.
  33. ^ Charles-Henri Ramond, "La déesse des mouches à feu en tête des nominations". Films du Québec, April 26, 2021.
  34. ^ Kelly Townsend, "‘The Body Remembers’ wins two awards in VIFF’s BC Spotlight". Playback, October 9, 2019.

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