In terms of raw horror, Shudder’s latest offering, The Sadness (2021) directed by Canadian filmmaker, Rob Jabbaz, is the best I’ve seen in quite a while. At first, I dismissed this subtitled, Taiwanese flick as yet another Covid-inspired zombie/28 Days Later retread – similar to the last Shudder flick I discussed, Virus: 32 (2022). Not so! While it’s true this movie does fit into that subgenre, it ramps up the horror elements to levels I’ve not seen in any of its peers. Simply put, this film is brutal. And, at the risk of coming across as a Sadist, I absolutely loved it.
I should have known I was in for something special when it was preceded by a warning regarding its gory and violent content, Normally, I’d pay no attention to that but, considering this was the Shudder horror streaming service I was watching, that statement held considerably more impact.
The film opens with a young couple, Jim (Berant Zhu) and Kat (Regina Lei), awakening at the start of a workday. Although there are subtle hints of trouble lingering in the background, everything seems perfectly normal until after he drops Kat off at her bus stop and decides to grab a coffee at the local café. It is here where all hell breaks loose and the film transitions into nonstop terror. These “zombies,” who’ve contracted a variant of the Alvin virus (this story’s version of Covid) have full use of their faculties and zero self-control. The virus attacks the part of the brain that controls sex and aggression, hence leading to indiscriminate acts of rape, violence, and mutilation, And this movie has plenty of all three!
It’s over the top and absolutely NOT for the squeamish. If you are offended by movies depicting extreme gore and rape (male and female) you may want to steer clear of this film. Also, if you’re offended by rape that involves eyesockets you may also want to avoid it. Adding even further to the brutality is the film’s dialogue. Let’s just say the infected have the kind of vocabulary that could make a truck driver blush. They also have a tendency t to monologue like supervillains. “This is my kiss. I am kissing you to death!” says one infected gal as she proceeds to shred a man to pieces by way of a handheld surgical saw. That’s literally the tamest quote I could come up with.
And for those less triggered by images than by political commentary, I should mention there’s plenty of that here as well – though quickly covered in buckets of blood. In truth, this movie is so “extra” that it’s hard to imagine anyone trying to give political analysis with a straight face. I did, however, learn that many of the social and political struggles we’ve been experiencing here in America are also taking place on the other side of the globe. And of all the atrocities committed in this film, that may very well be the most disturbing thing of all.