The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - THE SADNESS | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - THE SADNESS

the sadness review
Two lovers attempt to reunite as a mysterious virus leads to mass violence.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Rob Jabbaz

Starring: Regina Lei, Berant Zhu, Tzu-Chiang Wang, In-Ru Chen

the sadness poster

Pandemic-influenced movies continue to emerge from all corners of the globe. From Taiwan by way of Canadian director Rob Jabbaz comes The Sadness, which uses a deadly virus as the basis for what essentially amounts to a fast-running zombie movie. Jabbaz isn't exactly subtle in drawing comparisons to Covid, with TV news shows filled with debates between economy-conscious politicians and cautious scientists, and members of the public dismissing the virus as no more harmful than the flu.

the sadness review

In the manner of films like Miracle Mile and Cloverfield, Jabbaz centres his film on two young lovers attempting to reunite after finding themselves separated in the midst of an apocalyptic event. Following an early morning argument, Jim (Berant Zhu) and Kat (Regina Lei) depart to their respective workplaces. Jim stops off for coffee and witnesses a rabid old woman attack a young man, who in turn becomes violent himself. Within seconds most of the customers have become infected with this rage virus and are beating each other to a pulp. Meanwhile, Kat is taking the subway to work when the virus similarly breaks out in her crowded carriage.

The latter provides The Sadness's most impressively assembled set-piece, and I can't help think it should have opened the movie. Jabbaz ramps up the tension through Kat's encounter with a creepy businessman (Tzu-Chiang Wang) who attempts to hit on her and posits himself as a victim of a cold society when she rebukes his advances. While this tense interaction is playing out, other commuters are beginning to sweat in a curious manner. Jabbaz pulls off this sequence skillfully enough to suggest he has a bright future, but nothing else in the film matches its intensity.

the sadness review

It's not for the want of trying on Jabbaz's part, as his film is essentially one gore-filled sequence piled on another. He certainly pushes the boat out with his excesses, and The Sadness might be the sickest horror movie since A Serbian Film, but after a while it all becomes tiresome and begins to feel a little immature. Any hack can show us something gross or cross taboo lines, but only a talented filmmaker can put together a sequence like the aforementioned subway set-piece. After proving his chops, it's disappointing to see Jabbaz resort to a puerile pile-up of tedious edginess. Some of the sequences – most notably a TV broadcast by the government that turns bloody – veer into comedy and are completely at odds with the grim tone of the rest of the movie.

The Sadness's biggest problem is that it doesn't give us anyone to care about. Neither Kay nor Jim are anything other than cardboard cut-out protagonists. Aside from their apparent immunity to the virus, the only thing that makes them standout from the crowd is their model looks. We see very little of their personalities, and what glimpses we do get don't exactly endear us to the young couple. The narrative thrust should be whether they can reunite before it's too late, but it's difficult to care when Jabbaz himself seems to treat this as a secondary afterthought.

the sadness review

Jabbaz's film can't really be labelled a zombie movie, as its rabid villains are in control of their mental faculties and haven't actually returned from the dead. It's closer to something like David Cronenberg's Shivers, with the victims of the virus giving in to their most base impulses. This of course leads them to follow their sexual impulses in the most violent of fashion, and it's the sexualised nature of the violence that makes The Sadness ultimately such a grim watch. And if you think the film is taking the side of science over commerce, you'll be surprised at the movie's final act, which seems to betray an anti-vaxx agenda on the filmmaker's part.

The Sadness
 is on Shudder from May 12th.

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