The Sadness (2021)
Director (and writer): Rob Jabbaz
Cast: Berant Zhu, Regina Lei, Ying-Ru Chen, Tzu-Chiang Wang, Emerson Tsai, Wei-Hua Lan, Ralf Chiu
A young couple trying to reunite amid a city ravaged by a plague that turns its victims into deranged, bloodthirsty sadists. – IMDB
The feature film directorial debut for Canadian filmmaker Rob Jabbaz is a Taiwanese horror gorefest. Heavily inspired by the Cross comic book series, The Sadness sets in a viral pandemic called Alvin Virus that infects its victims making them fulfill their homicidal desires from extreme violence to rape. Basically just think about the most maniacal, bloodthirsty and wrongest things that could happen that The Sadness manages to get it in, probably even some of it being unthinkably horrible. While horror isn’t normally a go-to for Taiwanese films, Rob Jabbaz makes this one completely out of control. The gore element delivers to a disturbing level and this film is definitely not for the weak stomached and is full of all kinds of trigger warnings. For those who love this sort of film, this one goes for both a visual gore fest but also keeps some more disturbing elements off camera for your own imagination to fill in the blanks.
The Sadness builds its story around two perspectives which are from the two characters who are a couple called Cat (Regina Lei) and Jim (Berant Zhu) trying to reunite amidst the craziness that is surrounding them. Cat and Jim has a pretty thin back story from the start but does craft them through the little disagreement at the beginning in their fairly mundane life of two youths trying to make a career with Kat heading off to work while Jim takes her to work but is between jobs. When the viral outbreak starts, the two set off on different paths which gives way for an array of different scenarios to occur from the mountainous secluded areas to the tight spaced subway car and station tunnels to its big finale at the hospital. This viral outbreak crafts different groups of infected and the film touches on all of it even if its not as extensive as the homicidal elements especially focused on one older man (Tzu-Chiang Wang) who can be considered as the main villain of the film. And oh boy, does the script take his character far into the depths of the worst impulses triggered by this virus.
As I consider whether this film is just about presenting something very on the surface with its extremity and using a viral outbreak to craft a scenario suitable for it, the story does reflect a bit on society and its doubts and ignorance but also the virus itself does have a little moment at the beginning and the final acts when its basically outwardly discussed. However, as much as its not really talked about, there are little signs here and there that help paint a picture of what it is and makes you think a little more about what it does and why the film itself is titled The Sadness. There’s still a small part in my mind that thinks the actual nature of the virus should have more explanation but there is a power in not explaining too much since it brings in a different element of unknown as to when the trigger point of the virus attacks the infected.
Overall, The Sadness is a crazy ride: gory, blood-soaked, gut-wrenching, disgusting, sitting on a ton of trigger warning. Its definitely not for everyone. For myself, its really does get a little extreme at certain points and one scene in particular really did bother me quite a bit. However, there’s a lot to appreciate about The Sadness and its mostly the ability to push the content and go all the way. There are some low budget practical effects and then some contrasts in music selection to what’s happening on scene and a myriad of ways that people are killing each other and yet somehow, it all does work together, even if the main characters Cat and Jim are not exactly well-constructed but they do feel relatively realistic and human.
* The Sadness will premiere theatrically across Canada on April 29th and 30th in selected theatres. Starting May 12th, it will then be available as VOD on iTunes (preorder on April 26), Cineplex on Demand, Shaw VOD, Vimeo on Demand as well as landing on Shudder Canada. The Sadness will also be available on May 12th on Shudder USA, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.*
*Screener received by GatPR*