The zombies-and-Indians thriller Blood Quantum, plus westerns and West-set films to make the dawn of a decade anything but horrifying.
We suppose they could have called it Zombies and Indians — but that might have made the movie sound more high camp romp than hardcore thriller.
And trust us: Early reviews already have warned us there’s far more scary stuff than funny business in Blood Quantum, the Canadian-produced contemporary drama that had its world premiere last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival, and will be available for viewing in early 2020 on the Shudder streaming channel.
Written and directed by Jeff Barnaby, the movie brings a canny metaphoric twist to your garden-variety zombie apocalypse scenario. In Northern Quebec, members of an isolated Mi’gmaq community known as Red Crow discover they are the only humans immune to a zombie plague. As desperate folks from surrounding areas flee to Red Crow to escape hordes of undead predators, the Mi’gmaq must decide whether to let the outsiders in — and thereby risk not only the extinction of their tribe, but the end of humanity as we know it.
Canadian Plains Cree actor Michael Greyeyes — who previously dealt with marauding zombies as Qaletaqa Walker on TV’s Fear the Walking Dead — heads the Blood Quantum cast as Traylor, the Red Crow sheriff who strives to stand his ground against threats posed by both the living and the undead. During a 2018 C&I interview to promote Woman Walks Ahead, the historical drama in which he portrayed Lakota chief Sitting Bull, Greyeyes aptly described this new film as “a very astute political commentary, really, on colonialism and the rapacious nature of colonialism. It’s funny, it’s scary, it’s exciting — and it also is quite politically astute.”
The Mustang. Acclaimed by critics and audiences since its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s visually striking and emotionally arresting drama features Matthias Schoenaerts as a hardened convict who may — or may not — be redeemed through his work in a wild-horse-training program.
The Kid. Vincent D’Onofrio’s fresh take on the story of lawman Pat Garrett and outlaw Billy the Kid features strong performances by Ethan Hawke as Garrett, Dane DeHaan as Billy, and Chris Pratt, effectively cast against type as the sadistic villain who sets the plot into motion.
Never Grow Old. Speaking of offbeat casting: John Cusack, who will always be remembered for engaging performances in Say Anything and High Fidelity, is downright chilling in Ivan Kavanagh’s satisfyingly old-fashioned western as leader of an outlaw gang that takes over an Oregon town.
The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash. Thom Zimny’s tightly focused yet impressively multifaceted documentary portrait of the Man in Black was set to stream on YouTube after its world premiere at Austin’s 2019 SXSW Film Festival.
The Legend of 5 Mile Cave. This family-friendly film, which premiered on the INSP cable and satellite channel, is buoyed by Adam Baldwin’s robust portrayal of an ambiguous drifter who comes to the aid of a widowed mother (Jill Wagner) and her young son (Jet Jurgensmeyer) as they face foreclosure on their horse ranch in 1927 Kentucky.
The Wind. Director Emma Tammi’s genre-mixing frontier ghost story is a spooky and suspenseful thriller set on an isolated stretch of prairie where a lonely pioneer wife (Caitlin Gerard of TV’s The Last Ship and American Crime) finds herself haunted by real or imaged demons during her husband’s frequent absences.
Wild Rose. In his hugely entertaining dramedy, director Tom Harper (The Aeronauts) poses the question: Can a fiercely determined Scottish ex-con and single mom (Jessie Buckley) get out of Glasgow and make her way to Nashville so she can pursue a career in country music?
Buffalo Boys. And now for something completely different: An action-packed, spaghetti western-style shoot’em-up set in Indonesia, starring Ario Bayu and Yoshi Sudarso as brothers who rely on their expertise with six-guns and martial arts after returning from an American West sojourn to avenge their father’s death back home in Java.
The Divide. Director and star Perry King won two C&I Movie Awards (Best Picture and Best Actor) in 2019 for this compelling drama about a Northern California rancher beset by drought and Alzheimer’s disease, set for release on DVD/Blu-ray and streaming platforms in early 2020.
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Photography: Courtesy tiff.net, Focus Features
From our January 2020 issue.