For reasons that should be obvious to all, it’s been one hell of a time these last two years since March 2020. Filled with high highs and incredibly low lows, the world will never truly be the same again. In many ways, Shudder’s latest original film from Taiwan, The Sadness is the perfect anthem for the last two year. It’s one part “zombie” movie, one part brutal gorefest, one part character drama, and one part existential/philosophical dread.
In an opening sequence that will be all too familiar to those who lived through the past 2 years. We meet Jim (Berant Zhu) and Kat (Regina Lei) as relationship tension builds due to Jim opting not to take a vacation with her in favor of working. In the background we hear news reports of a deadly flu like virus that’s spreading in scope. Jim’s own neighbor insists that it’s all a ploy by the elite to manipulate the economy.
But as Jim and Kat go their separate ways for the day, they both make the horrifying discovery that this virus is far more than just the flu. Having mutated into some rabies-like variant, the infected become incredibly violent and brutal. What ensues is a harrowing survival thriller, and we watch Jim and Kat just trying to reunite while surviving against the absolute worst humanity has to offer.
The Sadness has many of the same apocalyptic breakdown of society tropes that are common to the zombie subgenre, but it is not itself a zombie movie. Technically it would fall under the “Infected” subgenre, with the likes of 28 Days Later, Rec, and The Crazies. However, it has far more in common with the lesser known Mayhem from 2017.
What’s particularly intriguing about this brand of “infected” is that they still very much keep their wits and personalities. They can speak, use tools/weapons, and even use reason and logic to kill their victims. They’re just exhibiting the absolute worst and most base of instincts.
They’re driven to commit unspeakable acts of both physical and sexual violence. You never see movies like these where the survivors are under threat of being sexually assaulted by the infected and it’s an incredibly disturbing development.
When it comes to the quintessential “zombie/infected” violence, The Sadness goes all out in ways you couldn’t even imagine. The gore and brutality is absolutely off the charts. We the audience are enticed and thrilled by the amazing gore effects and creative kills, which include head explosions, grotesque body horror, and gallons upon gallons of blood.
But for every moment that diehard fans are amazed, the movie genuinely horrifies with the inclusion of uncomfortable forms of violence, including sexual and that involved children. It gives bloodthirsty fans what that want in a movie, but it’s not afraid to go too far intentionally to demonstrate how awful this world truly is.
Close to Home
The Sadness is a title that could be interpreted many different ways. There’s the surface level meaning in terms of all the grief Jim and Kat endure. But ultimately, the titular sadness refers to the world as a whole. The events of the film play out like a much more exaggerated version of the previous 2 years. But it still keeps certain themes of loss, isolation, and hopelessness intact.
Early on, we see characters watching the news and just roll their eyes at the useless attempts of their government to keep things under control, something that very much mirrored real life. There’s also a larger philosophical question of whether humans’ true nature is abject violence and sadism. When it’s exploring these themes in a more broad sense, it works to the movie’s advantage.
However, it does feel a bit too preachy at times, and feels like it was tailor made with the year 2020 in mind. This isn’t to say that these ideas and themes aren’t relevant, just that it comes off a bit too on the nose here and there. But the movie’s many other strengths make up for it.
In the end, The Sadness succeeds in its goal to completely overwhelm, entertain, and yes disgust its viewers. It remains a bold piece of horror cinema that has something to say, but has the strong story and practical effects to back it all up!
What did you think of The Sadness? Let us know in the comments!