'The Sadness' is a Seriously Messed Up, Astoundingly Gory Horror Flick - Knotfest
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‘The Sadness’ is a Seriously Messed Up, Astoundingly Gory Horror Flick

Posted by Nicolás Delgadillo in Culture on May 26, 2022

This is easily one of the more extreme zombie movies you freaks can treat yourselves to.

When you’re a tried and true horror fan, exposing yourself to so much obscenity and violence and darkness and countless other things that scare us can sometimes start to feel monotonous. Desensitization is a hell of a thing. There’s only so many times you can watch gory dismemberment presented to you in so many ways before it all becomes a bit passé.

This goes double for the zombie side of the genre, which has always prided itself on its fantastically gruesome monsters, imaginative methods of death and disembowelment, and a rather bleak outlook on humanity in most works. Look no further than ratings juggernaut and pop culture phenomenon The Walking Dead, which kept audiences hooked every week with its take-no-prisoners carnage before eventually losing them with its relentlessly hopeless tone.

So it’s worth paying attention when a zombie movie (well, sort of) like The Sadness hits the scene and makes a splash in a way that manages to shake the foundations of it all. This lean and mean horror flick from writer / director Rob Jabbaz is filled to the brim with jaw-dropping, sadistic butchery on a level that few would dare to get close to. It’s savage, upsetting, and seemingly limitless in regards to what fresh insanity it decides to venture towards next. 

A virus turns the infected into sadistic killers in ‘The Sadness’
Courtesy of Shudder

So what’s different this time around? Why does all of The Sadness’ horror violence actually have an effect as opposed to the vast array of stagnant others like it? For one thing, Jabbaz and his team unapologetically revel in the excess of it all. The film delivers buckets (and I do mean buckets) of blood and gore, spraying and spilling it all over streets, apartments, train cars, hospitals, diners, and pretty much anywhere else an unlucky person in the film may find themselves.

The sheer gall of the movie is admirable enough in its own right, where all forms of graphic and taboo gruesomeness aren’t merely embraced but gleefully pushed into. Another thing that puts The Sadness a cut above the rest, is just how great it all looks. All of that disgusting carnage is made all the more impossible to look away from thanks to incredible practical effects, props and makeup from the team at IF SFX Art Maker. It’s astounding work. One can only imagine what it must’ve been like to painstakingly make such grotesque stuff.

Jabbaz’s film is a fast and nauseating ride deeper and deeper into hell, so much so that it sadly leaves its initially engaging story a bit behind in spite of itself. The plot follows Jim (Berant Zhu) and Kat (Regina Lei), a young couple who end up separated when a catastrophic virus breaks out around their home in Taipei. This particular virus turns the infected person into a depraved murderous maniac. The city is quickly overrun by scenes of horrific and often sexual violence – I meant it when I said this is one nauseating ride.

Gallons of blood fill up a cramped train car in ‘The Sadness’
Courtesy of Shudder

The Sadness acts as an obvious but thoroughly blunt look at the COVID-era. Medical experts and virologists are ridiculed and threatened for their warnings about an impending deadly virus and their plans for how to deal with it. The film’s virus supposedly brings out the absolute worst in people, much like our own pandemic tore friends and family apart in more ways than one, taken to the most extreme degree. It’s funny to notice how the characters who complain the most about today’s lack of politeness and need for a return to civility become the worst of the worst once they’re infected, like the film’s primary antagonist, a slimy businessman played by Tzu-Chiang Wang.

The further the film goes the more purposefully button-pushing its horror becomes, but its constant need to keep things going leaves little time for its two main characters to breathe or process what they’ve seen and been through in any way we can really attach to. The actors thankfully deliver gripping performances anyway. What starts off as a genuinely edgy take on the insanity of the covid era turns into a bit of a dull message of how we’re just all doomed, simple as that. That kind of dourness will be received differently from viewer to viewer.

There’s undeniable cinematic craftsmanship in The Sadness. If only there were more room for an exploration of character and theme in addition to the impressive display of shock and awe. Then again, for a lot of horror freaks, this level of artistic depravity is enough to call it a masterpiece.

‘The Sadness’ is now streaming on Shudder.


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