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Hijacking Horror In Jeff Barnaby’s BLOOD QUANTUM,  Vampira And MORE!
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The Bite #107
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Hijacking Horror In Jeff Barnaby’s BLOOD QUANTUM, Vampira And MORE!

April 28, 2020

In this Issue:


HORROR HISTORY

Hijacking Horror In Jeff Barnaby’s Blood Quantum

By Michael Greyeyes

The tropes are familiar to everyone who loves horror; a rural setting, characters with recognizable lives and problems like teen pregnancy and family strife, all painting a landscape of brooding calm before the coming storm. We also have the requisite warning signs that fans demand; nature in discord, strange police reports, key information unnoticed. A nurse, played with quiet resolve by Elle-Máija Tailfeathers (The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open) saying, “What do you mean we’re out of Tetanus?!” as she rummages through a hospital medicine cabinet. While we scream, “Because they BITE!!!” With the film’s first frames, Jeff Barnaby, visionary Mi’qmaq writer and director, and his long-time cinematographer, Michel St. Martin, want to flip this familiar world on its head. Literally. Stomach-churningly.

And then the levee breaks. And this quiet world is now bathed in violence, sudden and visceral.

For audiences unfamiliar with Barnaby’s work, the film has already made its point: he’s hijacked an entire genre and dragged it kicking and screaming towards Indigenous subjectivity. Of course, these readers know that the zombie sub-genre is long-steeped in social commentary. But when audiences from New York City to Rio de Janeiro to Jakarta begin watching Blood Quantum, the fact that stock characters like the beleaguered local sheriff (played by myself), his long-suffering ex (the aforementioned Tailfeathers), their delinquent sons (Forrest Goodluck, Kiowa Gordon) are all played by Indigenous actors will slip by unnoticed.

This is a landmark. It’s like any joke that starts with “So the Pope, Mick Jagger, and Stalin are on a plane.” Nobody asks what the heck those guys are doing on a plane together because no one cares — just tell us the punchline already! Barnaby flipped Hollywood on its head back at the on-ramp and is already halfway to Albuquerque, deep into the stories he wants to tell.

Everything in Blood Quantum is layered with semiotic resonance: an abandoned church as the setting for a shocking act of violence, character names like Lysol (a disinfectant) and Joseph (a soon-to-be father). Even the film’s title alludes to its central conceit that the inhabitants of this isolated rez are immune to the zombie plague while asking the audience to understand the roots of this racist, colonial term, leaving them wondering how much Indigenous blood it takes to be immune and, therefore, safe. In the COVID-19 hellscape we find ourselves in, safety and infection are no longer bloodless terms of art.

The zombie subgenre is the perfect cut-out. While bodies fly apart, entrails festooned across the set and actors’ bodies, Barnaby presents nuanced stories about fathers good, bad, and absent, exhumed behind the gore. We see addiction, intergenerational trauma, and the quiet strength of its female characters effortlessly depicted, like the threads in a tapestry. Exactly like in our own lives. And when the final frames hit, we’re gutted because his stories were always about survival and families and sacrifice; the gore was just bunting.


*Michael Greyeyes is a Nêhiyaw actor, director, and scholar from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. He plays Traylor in Jeff Barnaby’s Blood Quantum and is an Associate Professor and former Graduate Program Director for the MFA in Theatre at York University in Toronto, Canada.


HALFWAY TO HALLOWEEN

Halfway To Halloween - Shudder

Scare Ya Later

Last Friday saw the end of our Halfway to Halloween Hotline with tons of great recommendations from our very own Sam Zimmerman. We’re also saying goodbye to a few titles this week including the Friday The 13th series, In The Mouth Of MadnessThe Exorcist, and We Are Still Here, so be sure to watch them before they go.


IMAGE OF THE WEEK

Image Of The Week #107 - Cas The Lighthouse Gif Cartoon Recap - The Bite

If I Had A Steak…

Cartoonist Cas van de Pol makes animated recaps of some of your favorite films, and now he’s set his sights on Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse after this GIF went viral.


Shudder SHUTIN Promo

Now’s your chance to dig deeper, deeper, deeper into the Shudder library. New members can try the platform free for 30 days when they sign up online with promo code: SHUTIN


TINY BITES

BARBARA CRAMPTON, ASMR HORROR AND MORE

As if being stuck at home during a pandemic wasn’t scary enough, horror filmmaker Rob Savage decided now was the right time to scare his friends senseless with a short prank during a group Zoom chat.

Several museums in the UK and beyond had a creep off on Twitter this week showing off the freakiest items in their collections.

Take a closer look at the myths and folklore at the heart of Robert Eggers’ maritime cabin fever nightmare, The Lighthouse.

Brush up on your Slasher knowledge with the first part of Bloody Disgusting’s comprehensive guide to the subgenre.

Scream queen legend Barbara Crampton spoke to Consequence Of Sound about changing horror for women, surviving the pandemic, and the late, great Stuart Gordon.

Have a night at the theatre from the comfort of your living room with Danny Boyle’s stage production of Frankenstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller.

Filmmaker, actress, and Shock Waves Podcast co-host Rebekah McKendry’s USC class on horror film production will be available online this summer, and open to the general public.

Flickering Myth made a list of their must-see horror movies from every decade, from Nosferatu to Get Out.

The trailer for Alexandra Serio’s ASMR horror short, Tingle Monster, tackles the harassment female ASMRtists face online.

Find out more about what’s in store for Scream 5 in Rotten Tomatoes‘ breakdown of what we know so far.

Vice published an oral history of the iconic American Psycho for its 20th anniversary, getting stories from Mary Harron, Brett Easton Ellis, and even Huey Lewis.

Go full May Queen during quarantine with the actual costume from Midsommaron auction from A24.


THINGS WE LOVE

Things We Love #107 - Devin Townsend Vampira Video - The Bite

Mistress Of The Dark

It’s the last week of Halfway to Halloween, so enjoy the spooktacular music video for Devin Townsend’s Vampira and all its Halloweeny goodness.


HEY, THAT’S US! – SHUDDER IN THE NEWS

Cursed Films is a must see for any horror fan

Joe Bob Briggs brings us “24 hours of redneck joy” to make inside a little more

Now Streaming: 0.0MHZ, What’s the Frequency, Korean Hair Ghost?

‘I’m indigenizing zombies’: behind gory First Nation horror Blood Quantum

Elvira: Mistress of My Dark Heart