Blood Quantum Parent Guide
Well-made, creative, and grotesque, this movie is a blood-soaked zombie film about the legacy of colonialism.
Parent Movie Review
In the isolated Mi’kmaq community of Red Crow in the early 1980s, Police Chief Traylor (Michael Greyeyes) seems to be having just another bad day. His father is babbling about gutted fish coming back to life, his sons have been arrested in town, and he just had to put down his ex-wife’s dog. But when he finds that his father has been right about the fish, and worse, that the dog has come back as well, he realizes the community has a serious problem. Although the Mi’kmaq people seem to be immune to the outbreak, the surrounding residents are not, and soon Red Crow is overrun by zombies and refugees.
Here’s a comment you don’t often see in film criticism: I wish this movie were more political. There is a strong political current throughout, but I wish the filmmakers had spent more of the runtime directly addressing it. Director Jeff Barnaby has described the film as a commentary on colonialism, and while there are certainly moments that focus on that, there are others that slip back into zombie comedy. I think the film would have been stronger if it had spent less time with the gore and more with the political dimensions of Indigenous groups in Quebec in the 1980s. There is one shot that directly mimics the famous “Face to Face” photo from the Oka Crisis, and it stands out to me as one of the strongest moments of the film.
That gripe aside, the zombie elements of the film are really well done. Gruesome, gory, and gritty are attributes the genre is built on, and Blood Quantum has them in spades. With a combination of good comic timing and over-the-top gore, the movie manages to be funny without getting silly.
Obviously, this is not a family film. The zombie genre dines out on, so to speak, bloody violence and Blood Quantum is no exception. People are decapitated, shot, sliced up with chainsaws, set on fire, fed into a woodchipper, and bludgeoned to death. There are horrific scenes where a zombie eats a baby and where a zombie eats a man’s genitals. If you are even the littlest bit squeamish, avoid this film like the plague. Graphic violence aside, there is a ceaseless torrent of profanity, which by my count reached 85 sexual expletives over the 96 minute runtime. Frequent detailed sexual references and discussions and abuse of drugs and alcohol throughout push this even further from “appropriate family viewing” territory.
If you’re a fan of the genre, you might want to give this a look, but otherwise, there are stronger options. Oscillating between darkly funny and horrifyingly depressing, Blood Quantum is a difficult film to recommend to most people. It is well made, creative, and grotesque - and depending on your preference, either a classic of the genre or an unjustifiable gore fest. Much like human flesh, zombie movies are just a matter of personal taste.Directed by Jeff Barnaby. Starring Michael Greyeyes, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, and Forrest Goodluck. Running time: 96 minutes. Theatrical release October 19, 2019. Updated September 25, 2019
Rating & Content Info
Why is Blood Quantum rated Not Rated? Blood Quantum is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: Being a zombie movie, there is a great deal of gory violence. Numerous people are decapitated, shot, chopped apart with chainsaws, set on fire, fed into a woodchipper, bludgeoned to death, and eaten. Notable instances of exaggerated violence include a zombie eating a baby, a zombie eating a man’s genitals, and an individual cutting through a zombies face with a chainsaw. There are several references to and depictions of suicide.
Sexual Content: There are frequent coarse sexual references with varying degrees of explicit description. A man’s dismembered…well, member, is shown being consumed.
Profanity: By my count, there were 85 uses of extreme profanity and 20 uses of scatological profanity alone. I didn’t have room in my notebook to count the other categories, but they were fairly limited. Frequent use of terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Individuals are frequently shown drinking, and several are implied to suffer from alcoholism. One individual becomes intoxicated and defecates on to a car from an overpass, although no nudity is shown. Individuals are shown smoking both cigarettes and marijuana. Individuals are shown crushing prescription medication and adding it to beer.
Page last updated September 25, 2019
Blood Quantum Parents' Guide
I really wouldn’t recommend this as a family film, but if you do see it with your family, you could discuss how grateful you are that grandma decided to take a bathroom break before someone got his genitals eaten by the undead. That would have been tricky to explain.
Seriously, Blood Quantum is a commentary on colonialism and how it affected Canada’s First Nations people, in particular the Mi‘kmaq. “Blood quantum” was a criteria used by the American federal government in determining the amount of “Indian blood” a person had and whether or not they qualified as Indian. Indian status in Canada is complicated and does not necessarily overlap with being an indigenous person, but it is also based on blood descent.
For a look at the effects of colonialism on Canada’s indigenous peoples, you can check out the following sources:
The Canadian Encyclopedia: Indigenous Peoples
Winnipeg Free Press: Canada Is Haunted by Colonialism
Foreign Policy: Canada Reckons with Genocide
Global Research: First Nations Rights: Confronting Colonialism in Canada
Idle No More: Articles about Indigenous Rights
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Fans of zombie tales will want to read Max Brook’s The Zombie Survival Guide.
In The Marrow Thieves, author Cherie Dimaline has created a dystopic world where people have lost their ability to dream. Except for North America’s indigenous people - who are now being hunted for their bone marrow, which is the key to dreaming.
For stories of the Mi’kmaq experience in Canada, you can read Daniel N Paul’s We Were Not the Savages: Collision Between European and North American Civilizations. To learn more about all of Canada’s First Nations peoples, you can turn to the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada, produced by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Information about the political and legal issues comes in Bob Joseph’s 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality.
Related home video titles:
For a somewhat more restrained zombie comedy with a political edge, The Dead Don’t Die, starring Bill Murray and Adam Driver, is an excellent choice. The violence is much less explicit, there is no sexual content, and the swearing is much less frequent. Still not a film for children, but a good choice for fans of the genre.