The Sadness: Artful Destruction
Dir. Rob Jabbaz (2021)
A worldwide pandemic has mutated into a virulent strain of rabies in a Taiwanese city. Hilarity absolutely does not ensue.
The Sadness, a 2021 Taiwanese film that is just now coming to America and streaming on Shudder, is about a fast-developing rabies virus that instantly turns its sufferers into bloodthirsty sadists, who kill, maim, and rape people just for the hell of it. In a huge city, the violence soon grows out of control, and when I say out of control, I mean out of fucking control. Rob Jabbaz, in his feature debut, has managed to create a brutally violent film with clear parallels to the attitudes surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, with many people claiming it to be a hoax and ignoring the problem until its too late. And boy does it become too late quickly.
The blood flows like water, with the black-eyed infected essentially human zombies who have an extreme thirst for blood. There is no method to their madness, they seek just to kill and destroy in any way possible and with any method available to them. Arteries are ripped open, and there are so many scenes of “holy fuck, did that really just happen” that it’s hard to believe. I had heard, before watching, that this was the most brutal film in a long time, and I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to believe. As a purveyor of extreme cinema, I have found that, quite often, it’s not nearly as bad as one would expect from the reviews, and things aren’t nearly as disgusting as they’re made out to be. Holy fuck is that not the case in this one. The violence is disturbing enough, but the sheer joy that the infected feel while committing atrocities on others ramps things up to 11.
What this film got absolutely right was that it made an extremely gory horror film that is not gore for the sake of gore. This is a full-on film, with a plot and everything! Sadly, that’s super rare in films with this much bloodshed, as you can probably tell from reading some of my other reviews. This film, however, is a masterpiece in disturbing and artful destruction. Jabbaz is the new Eli Roth, but better, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what he comes up with next. This movie is 28 Days Later with some balls and Mayhem made by someone who just doesn’t give a fuck. Hearkening to the best of the video nasty days, it’s a visually stunning film with the red Argento palette, unfortunately not used for scenery in this film. Jabbaz makes Eli Roth look like Uwe Boll, simply by making a disgusting and extreme film without pushing the bounds of taste or stretching the plot to its breaking point, a concept with which Roth tends to struggle.
Let me be perfectly clear: there are absolutely going to be people who watch this movie who feel it goes too far. And you know what, maybe it does. There is a particular scene that is very reminiscent of another particular scene in A Serbian Film. If you’ve seen both movies, you’ll know which one I mean. This scene is perhaps unnecessary, but it does highlight exactly how extremely fucked up these people are. (I mean, there’s also a scene where a “zombie” vomits into an open wound in order to infect the other person, so there’s not particularly a shortage of icky moments to choose from) I’m not one to criticize a filmmaker for his choices, and I’m certainly not going to start now. Just know that if you’re turning on this movie and you’re not an extreme horror fan, you… probably aren’t going to like it very much, and you may well feel that it’s too much. Fortunately, there are enough depraved people like me out there that will absolutely appreciate this movie for the blood-soaked romp that it is.
As Sartre says, hell is other people. In this case, that’s entirely true, because anyone who is infected is looking to tear you limb from limb for no other reason than that they can. A zombie movie without the standard zombie; while nitpickers may say this has been done before with 28 Days Later’s rage virus, this is not a rage virus, this is a sadism virus. That’s so, so much worse. The film is aggressively gaudy in its mostly-practical effects, and it quite literally goes for the jugular once the bodies start to fall. The psychosexual torment inflicted by the infected is almost too much to bear, and their smiling faces make it all the worse. The film is not for the faint-hearted, to be sure. It was, however, for me.
Who this movie is for: Gorehounds; The horror faithful; People who didn’t think Eli Roth went far enough
Bottom line: This one is just a balls to the wall gorefest, and I’m fucking here for it. Absolutely loved this film, and if you can stand subtitles and don’t mind waiting to eat dinner to watch it, check it out immediately. If there’s any justice in the world at all, Rob Jabbaz is going to be a household name for horror fans pretty soon, if he’s not just from making this movie. I haven’t felt this excited for a horror movie in a long time, this is just plain, old-fashioned fun.