Review by David Baldwin
I am still somewhat aghast when it comes to The Sadness. I watched it more than two weeks ago and no amount of cold showers can wash away the shockingly vicious images that have seared into my mind. I know that sounds like hyperbole and that just about every other super gory horror movie has struck a similar nerve in the film going community over the past decade or two. I am a fan of many of those films and watched many others strictly because I pride myself on my tolerance for films that more squeamish people would run away screaming from. Yet despite some of those titles being substantially more mortifying than The Sadness, the film still has a way of leaving you shaken and uneasy. Have you ever watched a movie and breathed a sigh of relief when it does not go as far as you thought it would? Well, The Sadness does the opposite – it goes well past the threshold of “too far” and into a realm of depravity few films have ever journeyed into.
And just so you know Writer/Director Rob Jabbaz (originally from Mississauga!) is not playing around, he makes that depraved journey multiple times. And each time is more fucked up than the last.
Still with me, or did I scare you off?
If you stuck around, well then it is pertinent to tell you the film concerns Jim (Berant Zhu) and Kat (Regina Lei). They are not exactly the perfect couple, but they love each other anyway. Jim drops Kat off at the subway on his scooter, waves goodbye and heads home to grab a coffee at the local café. They both learn quickly that today is far from ordinary and begin witnessing the people around them becoming feral and descending into madness. Assault. Murder. Torture. Rape. Cannibalism. Sexual deviancy. Jim and Kat see it all and must survive long enough to reach each other before they succumb to whatever plague has infected the population of Taipei.
The COVID-19 parallels are a bit too obvious here, as is the bleak satire around government and science. However, each of those elements come secondary to the zombie action and destruction Jabbaz unleashes on his cast. The sheer amount of blood spilled in the one scene on the subway car is outrageous and eye-opening (though you may wish you shut your eyes by the time the carnage ends!). Jabbaz revels in making Jim and Kat’s experiences as audacious as possible, with the infected individuals relentlessly pursuing our star-crossed lovers at every turn. Even the moments where he slows the film down to process what has happened, Jabbaz is already prepping up the horrific moment that comes next. The man is a mad genius with no sense of the difference between good and bad taste, and is unapologetic about the horrible things he inflicts on his cast. I dare not spoil some of the rather “unique” moments, rather leaving it up to you to discover just how incredibly detailed the makeup and gore effects are.
While it is a challenge to get too attached to any of the characters, I was blown away by Tzu-Chiang Wang’s character who is simply referred to as Businessman. He starts off as a whiney “nice guy” who demands to be treated better, and then morphs into an absolute monster out of your worst nightmares. The things he says are deplorable. The things he does are even worse. He is just too good at playing this truly evil son of a bitch and manages to steal every scene he appears in. Just the way he looks at the camera is enough to increase the tension and make you break into a cold sweat. Zhu and Lei are solid performers, yet they cannot even pretend to be competing with Wang, nor can anyone else. His work is just that good and is bound to leave you just as disgusted as you are riveted.
The Sadness is nothing too deep and its subtext is less than subtle. What it does with its kills, injuries, zombies and gleefully vicious gore though, is truly a sight to behold. If you get skittish at the sight of blood, go elsewhere. If you revel in films getting bloodier with each progressive scene, you may find yourself at odds with trying to sit through The Sadness. If you can stomach it all, then you are in for an absolutely wild time and will not believe just how far Jabbaz pushes the limits of human decency. Just be prepared to need a cold shower or six after taking it all in.
The Sadness is available to stream on Shudder or watch on VOD and On-Demand services now.