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I am a sucker for a zombie film, especially given the current boom of non-white zombie stories in recent years. Train to Busan and Seoul Station were excellent zombie films that delivered distinctly Korean perspectives on the undead, while the Shudder original The Dead Lands created a distinct Maori period piece revolving around the undead. Now with Blood Quantum, we are presented with a zombie film rooted firmly in the experiences and perspective of the First People of Canada.

Blood Quantum is a Canadian production under Prospector Films, written and directed by Jeff Barnaby (Rhymes for Young Ghouls). The film stars a primarily indigenous cast including Michael Greyeyes, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Forrest Goodluck, and Kiowa Gordon. Blood Quantum is currently streaming on Shudder.

What Worked With Blood Quantum?

Three generations of one family in a single frame.

The film has a Romeroesque quality to it in how it explores the ways zombies exacerbate existing divisions in communities. The town of Red Crow, of the Mi’gMaq reserve on the border of Quebec and New Brunswick, experiences the first moments of the rise of the dead in a few haunting scenes that establish the characters and setting of 1981 Canada. The film introduces the apocalypse and then jumps forward six months later with a revelation: whatever is causing the dead to rise doesn’t affect the First People. That’s going to have repercussions among the white and indigenous communities. The film is not so much about the zombies, but this is expected when something is in the vein of Romero.

Instead, the film is an exploration of some complex indigenous characters set against the backdrop of a horrific pandemic and the pressures it exerts on a people who have already greatly suffered at the hands of the white man. Only now the white man is just a deadly even in death. It’s all very interesting material that is wrapped up in some fun zombie deaths here and there. The film’s anticolonial commentary is quite obvious but none-the-less interesting; white people enter the lands of the First People, only this time the disease they bring does not affect the First People as prior pandemics. Hell, even the title of the film evokes racist blood quantum laws: measures used to determine native identity by percentages of ancestry.

The performances are solid across the board with Michael Greyeyes and Stonehorse Lone Goeman portraying two of three generations of the central indigenous family. Goeman’s Gisigu in particular delivers a rather iconic character, evoking a stoic samurai in his approach to dispatching the undead and his general wisdom and selflessness. Greyeyes’s Tralyor evokes the sort of authority one expects of a Rick Grimes character, but with an even more weary outlook given his and his people’s circumstances even prior to the outbreak.

Lysol’s apocalypse look is like a post-apocalyptic Casey Jones from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

As far as the gore, it is well executed but with some clunky CGI in some scenes. CGI is not unusual for zombie films, but the dodgy CGI comes early on with a shocking fish scene, ultimately undercut by the execution. Some distance shots of zombies movie with a level of “jank” more associated with low-framerate animation in some videogames as well. Overall though, these small moments do not get in the way with the amount of blood and gore necessary for a zombie film.

What Didn’t Work With Blood Quantum?

While solid overall, the film tries to accomplish a lot and unfortunately does not stick the landing with a few of its narrative points. The split between the first days of the virus and six months later is novel, but it doesn’t exactly provide viewers with enough time to really get to know the characters. The cast is very large, and while a large cast is not a problem, it becomes a bit tough to juggle different plotlines and motivations without enough time to really focus on the characters.

The animated segments are interesting and reflect dream logic and legend but feel out of place.

The central relationship between the brothers is one of those elements that feels a bit lacking. The pain that Lysol faces and leads to his actions is readily apparent, which is a credit to the performance, and we very briefly get a tease of the systemic abuse he faces when he talks to Joseph about why he was in jail during the first stage of the outbreak. It is equally hilarious and heartbreaking and represents a broken system. If only the rest of the characters were given these moments. Joseph, in comparison, is little more than a spark for conflict compared to his troubled brother, even with his relationship with his pregnant white girlfriend.

Ultimately, there is just too much story, both on the character level and the macro-level to cover sufficiently in a relatively lean hour and a half runtime. Stylistic elements, such as the few animated features hint at something larger but ultimately do not amount to much in the film as it stands. With any luck, the film proves successful enough for a sequel or, perhaps more appropriate, a television series. It is a fascinating world that we get glimpses of in the film and deserves to be explored further.

Final Verdict

As a whole, Blood Quantum is an excellent twist on the zombie genre and dense with meaning and allusion. The film is a well-executed statement on the legacy colonialism and feels remarkably relevant to our current pandemic climate. However, issues with pacing, a large cast, and perhaps too much story spread too thin drag it down a bit.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

For more coverage of zombie films, check out other reviews under the Zombie tag.

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine Special Live Watch Party February 10th!

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The sweet putrid stench of love lingers through the air which can only mean one thing…Valentine’s Day and its annoying little winged cherub mascot, Cupid, is fast approaching. Soon, partners will be spoiling one another with extravagant bouquets of roses, heartfelt Hallmark cards, obnoxiously large teddy bears, glistening diamond jewelry, and heart-shaped candies or boxes filled with assorted mediocre chocolates. You know? Normal things couples do. I tend to prefer my chocolate boxes filled with bleeding hearts, à la ‘My Bloody Valentine’ but, beggars can’t be choosers, right? All jokes aside, Valentine’s Day is special for many couples, however, there are also many others who find themselves celebrating this day without a significant other. Luckily, Shudder, along with drive-in king Joe Bob Briggs and co-host Darcy the Mail Girl (Diana Prince) will graciously be keeping us lonely mutants’, and yes, all you horror fanatic couples’ company on Friday, February 10th as they return with The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine, premiering live at 9pm EST.

Love Spells Abound…

Back in 2021, Joe Bob and Darcy invited us to a gruesomely passionate night of spell-binding love witches and animatronic dinosaurs infused with teenage human brains during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You. Many, including myself, were introduced to the tantalizing 70’s inspired retro throwback ‘The Love Witch’ and the graphically goofy cult classic ‘Tammy and the T-Rex’, providing the perfect viewing pleasure to mend any broken heart. While the two films for this year’s morbid love-induced special have yet to be announced, as a special treat, Briggs has announced for the first time on The Last Drive-In, he will be marrying one lucky couple during the live showing. We here at HauntedMTL are eagerly awaiting the return of the ghoulish duo so, as is tradition, we will be proudly hosting a watch party on Twitter during the broadcasting of The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and tag us  @hauntedMTL as well as @shudder@therealjoebob, and @kinky_horror to partake in this night of unholy love.

Drawn image of Joe Bob Briggs pouring  a drop of pink liquid into a clear glass potion bottled filled with a glowing red substance. To his left lies a book a magic spells with a golden pentagram necklace resting on top. Also on the books rests a human skull with heart shaped pupils for eyes hiding behind a pair of clear glasses. In bold white letters a text reads "Join us on February 10th as we live tweet The Last Drive-In Valentine's Day Special".
Follow @hauntedMTL for live tweets and replies!

What started off as a one-time special premiering on Shudder July 13, 2018, ‘The Last Drive- In’ was originally meant to be Brigg’s swan song; one last special before hanging up the bolo tie in retirement. However, due to so many mutants, excuse me…viewers tuning in and breaking the Shudder servers, it was only natural to announce an official full season of ‘The Last Drive-In‘, which would make its explosive debut March 19, 2019. Since then, Darcy and Briggs have spawned many exclusive holiday specials, have graciously donated to many charities within the community, and have accumulated 4 seasons of ‘The Last Drive-In’, with a fifth currently in production premiering on Shudder’s 2023 schedule sometime this year, let’s hope sooner rather than later.

Picture of Joe Bob Briggs, Darcy the Mail Girl, John Patrick Brennan and Yuki Nakamura standing together dressed in medieval costumes. A cardboard cutout of Tom Atkins stands between Darcy and Yuki. Darcy is seen drapped in a beautfiul elegant princess dress, satin white with gold trim. Yuki is seen holding a small wreath of purple, white, and yellow flowers that match his loud medieval king costume. Resting atop both their heads are golden crowns. Joe Bob Briggs is seen standing to the left of Darcy, as he smiles whilst wearing a half-put together jester costumer. Lastly, we see Brennan with two wooden recorders in his hand as he mimics playing them both dress clad in a bright yellow dress.
An unexpected ceremony during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You (2021) special.

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Movies n TV

Horror Noire, a Film Review

Horror Noire is a horror collection that includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.”

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Horror Noire is a horror collection brought by the combined efforts of AMC+ and Shudder. The collection includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.” Horror Noire boasts Black directors and screenwriters, providing six unique stories.

As this collection explores six stories, I will skip the usual synopsis to assess the genres and ideas explored, albeit limited as needed. Expect to find supernatural horror, creature features, and psychological thrillers. Many short films deal with these genres while exploring Black issues, but this isn’t universal for the collection.

The directors and writers include Zandashé Brown, Robin Givens, Rob Greenlea, Kimani Ray Smith, Steven Barnes, Ezra Clayton Daniels, Tananarive Due, Shernold Edwards, Victor LaValle, and Al Letson.

Woman and man wearing a vote for candidate shirt, scared of something off screne
Image from “Sundown” Directed by Kimani Ray Smith

What I Like

Each story remains unique, holding different strengths and weaknesses that highlight drastically different perspectives. Collections like VHS hold a similar premise to create their collection, but Horror Noire gives more creative freedom to its talent to be independent.

My personal favorite short film is Zandashé Brown’s “Bride Before You.” This period piece unravels a fable set in the Reconstruction Era. The entry feels Fabulistic in approach, which happens to be my preferred niche.

However, the best example of horror goes to Robin Givens’ “Daddy,” providing an existential horror tied directly to the characters involved.

Woman listening to a preacher amidst a crowd
Image from “Fugue State” directed by Rob Greenlea

What I Dislike

As mentioned, all have a particular style and idea. The downside of this approach always remains to keep the viewer interested long enough to find their favorite. If you find several underwhelming choices, this becomes a chore. But I imagine that is rare as the variety makes the options refreshing.

Personally, “Brand of Evil” had an interesting premise, but the execution fell short. On paper, it might have sounded like my favorite, which makes the lackluster execution a bigger letdown.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Horror Noire gives power and control to Black creators, providing a formula for a unique collection against others in the space. While the various subjects and approaches mean you aren’t likely to love them all, there should be a short film for everyone.
3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Dahmer, Silenced

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Episode six of Netflix’s Dahmer was not, honestly about our title character. Instead, it was about one of his victims, a man named Tony. We’ve actually seen Tony a few times during this series. We just didn’t know it was him.

Rodney Burford in Dahmer

And, well, he wasn’t exactly alive the first time we saw him.

Tony was born into a supportive, loving family. This is good because soon after he was born a viral infection took his hearing. He is black, deaf, and gay in the early 90’s.

Tony has a dream of becoming a model. And he certainly has the looks for it. He is beautiful, body and soul. He has lots of opportunities for romance, but it’s not what he’s looking for. He wants a real relationship. 

Eventually Tony moves to Madison, trying to pursue his dream. He gets a job and starts getting modeling work.

Then, he meets Jeff Dahmer at a bar. 

At first, we can almost believe that it’s going to be alright. Jeff seems happy. He’s taking care of himself. He’s not drinking as much. He even has his dad and stepmom over for dinner. It seems like his life is getting on track. Even better, he’s treating Tony right.

Then, of course, things go bad. 

One thing that has always bothered me as a true crime fan is that we know so much about the killers, but not as much about the victims. Not so much if we don’t know who the killer is, of course. But the names that are part of our pop culture are those of the killers. Dahmer, Manson, Jones, Bundy, Holms. The names we don’t know are Roberta Parks, Beth LaBiancas, Leno LaBiancas, and Tony Hughes. And clearly, we should know them.

If Tony Hughes was half the shining, positive person that the show Dahmer made him out to be, I’m so sad that he isn’t with us anymore. We need so many more people like him. And many of Dahmer’s victims were likely just like him. After all, he was attracted to them for a reason.

This was a significant episode, and I understand why it’s the highest-rated episode of the series. I finished it with a heavy heart, saddened by the loss of a man who should still be with us today. 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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