WARNING: This movie is not for the faint of heart, honestly only seasoned horror fans would really enjoy this. I'm talking melting skin, I'm talking sexual assault, I'm talking an ax to the neck. If all of that sounds terrible to you, avoid this movie.
Although having come out last year, The Sadness has been making rounds on social media lately, just in time for Halloween. As a horror buff, I was intrigued by people claiming this was the most disturbing movie they've ever seen or to watch with caution. I'm the type with that nagging curiosity. So, I finally put the internet to the test and watched it for myself.
The Sadness is a Taiwanese movie released in Taiwan in January of 2021. It is heavily inspired by the Crossed comic book series and follows a young couple who try to reunite amidst a disease that turns people into homicidal maniacs.
The odd thing to me, however, is that it was directed and written by a white Canadian man. I've searched for the answer and the only one I could find is simply that Canada has several programs to go abroad to Taiwan and Rob Jabbaz needed a job. A bit odd, but it's not the first time I've ever heard of it. Perhaps the one thing that bothers me the most about it is that not only do I just personally appreciate having POC directors, but the script was clearly written for and by Westerners. The biggest thing I've noticed was the names. The four main named characters are Jim, Kat, Molly, and Alan. Now, it's not uncommon for Asian people to have a Western name, but it's pretty uncommon to have an English name in their own country where they speak a different language. I noticed that when they would speak to Molly, the subtitles would refer to her as Molly but their voices were referring to her as "Li Shi." (The others had different names as well, but my ears didn't catch them.) It's a small detail, but it did make me feel like Jabbaz just wrote the script for a Western audience and had someone else translate it for the actors. It made me wonder if there was a lot of disconnect between the stories, and I really wanted to know Chinese at that moment.
This film markets itself as a 'rage virus' movie rather than a zombie movie. However, it has quite a few zombie elements and quite a few unique elements. I couldn't for the life of me tell you how the virus spreads because they don't always bite people and even the normal people who had blood on their faces didn't "turn." However, like zombies, these rage creatures tend to move in groups, are triggered by noise, and occasionally feast on human flesh. That's mostly where the similarities end (other than how the movie plays out, i.e., trying to make a cure, loved ones sacrificing themselves, etc.)
The biggest difference I would say is that these creatures can speak, think, and have memories. Also, their objective is not to eat people, nor to spread the disease. Their main goal is simply violence, in the worst way they can find. You can tell the message is about humanity's underlying evils as the rage monsters rape, pillage, and murder around the town. They often refer to it as their primal instincts being heightened. However, this doesn't save them from their own kind as sometimes they're tempted to jump off buildings or even torture each other.
They are coordinated enough to use tools and cars so I would actually argue that they are much worse than zombies by a long shot. I find it interesting that it's called "The Sadness" due to a symptom of the virus being red puffing eyes and crying. It's almost as if their real selves are still inside and know what horrors they're committing. It's a topic that I would've loved more focus on.
This is definitely a movie made just for the shock factor. It goes above and beyond typical horror movies in horrific sexual assault acts, drenching the characters in an absurd amount of blood, and chopping off/stabbing through body parts that would make you cringe the most. While perhaps I personally could be okay with that, as I'm used to horror movies and their antics, there was hardly any plot to keep me engaged. The couple are separated when the girl has to go to work and from there, they are simply running around town trying to escape different scenarios. The only real plot comes near the end when Kat meets a surviving virologist. Although, this plot goes nowhere and the film ends on a note that will make you say "wait... it's over?"
The effects are actually very well made, though some of the acts are distasteful and I don't think I've ever seen more blood in a single movie than this. This definitely has its niche audience. However, for regular people and even just casual horror fans, I really don't think it's worth it. It's one of those films that got popular simply because of how crazy it is. If you're into crazy, and into violence, give it a go, but overall I can't personally recommend it.