Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Gnarly practical effects are showcased on an increasingly limited scale in the modern world of CGI overload. Thankfully, The Sadness never shies away from the gory zombie goods. In fact, I would go so far as to say this is one of the nastiest and downright mean movies I have watched in ages. Written and directed by Rob Jabbaz, this Taiwanese import goes for the jugular with ghoulish visuals, fast-paced madcap energy, and no less than three outrageously over-the-top bloodbaths.

It has been a year of fighting against a pandemic, and things to seem to be returning to relative normalcy. Kat (Regina) and her longtime boyfriend Jim (Berant Zhu) have a trip planned together next week to Kenting, but he cancels on her basically at the last minute. Upset about their potentially botched vacation, there is trouble in the air for the young couple. An ominous news report with a scientist growing deeply concerned about the Alvin Virus sets up the outbreak backdrop. The virus may be no more serious than a mild case of the flu, but has massive mutation possibilities and is compared to rabies in humans! That morning, carnage seems all around them as they prepare to start their day. Kat heads off for a work meeting, while Jim bikes to town for a bite to eat. Chaos reigns supreme as murder, rape, torture, and cannibalism spread across the entire city. Can Kat and Jim reunite before it is too late?

Kat and Jim are two characters one can root for amongst the madness, and it makes all the difference that The Sadness devotes a significant chunk of its runtime to this relationship. Kat is given the meatiest arc as she eventually comes face to face with the science behind the virus, while Jim is in the streets facing off against all manner of horrifying scenarios. Having an end goal or task at hand is the lifeblood of any good zombie apocalypse movie; giving Kat and Jim a long-awaited reunion is a wise scripting choice, forcing the audience to become invested in their journey. The central relationship sets it apart from similar features, and propels the story away from the monotony of endless death sequences.

The kills themselves though are an obvious highlight. Being scary is great, but sometimes one is just in the mood for blood splatter, and The Sadness delivers this in spades. We get a face drenched in frying oil and torn open, a waterfall of blood on the subway train, fingers chopped off with gardening shears then chewed up and spit into a fish tank, and an umbrella through the eye—that is just the tip of the iceberg! The fact that the brutality is so varied and borderline sadistic cranks up the entertainment value—however, I must add that depending on your level of squeamishness, maybe think about skipping this one. The Sadness is a lot to handle even for me, who has seen countless uber gory horror flicks.

Strictly not for the easily offended, The Sadness reaches the heights of sexual depravity, murders babies, features man on man subway rape, and a literal blood orgy. The central relationship between Kat and Jim remains vital through every tension-filled set piece. After an opening credits sequence that shows the virus mutating on a cellular level, The Sadness approaches the pandemic through a judgment-free microscope of gory intensity. Its over-the-top tone leaves little in the way of interpretation. However, lack of profound social commentary does not stop The Sadness from hitting perilous highs for a standard zombie flick.

The Sadness screened at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.

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