2022 | unrated (hard R equivalent) | starring Berant Zhu and Regina Lei | written & directed by Rob Jabbaz | 1h 39m | In Mandarin with Subtitles |
2023 Halloween Horrorfest, pt 1
The Sadness is a title that doesn’t prepare the viewer for the ride of sadistic, bloody carnage that lies inside. It’s a zombie movie in the way that The Crazies or The Signal (2006) is a zombie movie. The plot is simple and streamlined and very much like The Signal. Taiwan is infected with a mutant virus turns people into depraved walking IDs, slaves to kill, f**k, torture or whatever else their animal instincts tell them. They’re zombies, but they’re sentient and enjoy inflicting cruelty on a mass scale. In the middle of a chaos a couple are split up and Jim (Berant Zhu) tries to get across town to his girlfriend Kat (Regina Lei) who is relentlessly being chased by an infected axe-wielding businessman (Tzu-Chiang Wang) she met on the subway.
For me, the best part of a zombie/apocalypse movie is always the opening scene where the chaos breaks into normal life and the social orders starts to break down before the “6 months later” title card comes up to whisk us into an empty, more budget friendly, post-apocalyptic world. Writer/director Rob Jabbaz’s debut film stays in those opening moments of chaos for it’s entire run time. That alone sets it out from the rest of this highly populated pack.
To say the film isn’t for most people is the understatement of the year. It more sadistically revels in bodily destruction than Damien Leone’s Terrifier 2 – which is really saying something – but with a nastiness the villains have in taunting their victims that the silent, impish Art the Clown makes so much more entertaining. Still, it’s a harrowing adventuring that builds an appropriate amount of blood-spurting chaos. It all starts out fairly normal until a spectacular early-film set piece where Kat is trapped in a subway car as the virus takes hold and turns everyone murderous around her. The dam breaks open and a geyser of blood hits the ceiling and the movie keeps it’s foot on the gas all the way to the end.
Even gore-hounds might be divided on if The Sadness slips too far in tone from fun apocalyptic chaos to sadistic revelry. I felt like it walked right up to that line but didn’t trip over it. It’s a well done, effective film in an overcrowded genre. It looks great, the performances are just campy enough and the pace is kept up relentlessly. I was down for the chaos. It’s thrilling and horrific in equal measures, a worthy slot in the halls of extreme exploitation horror. I’m both curious and a little afraid of what Jabbaz might have up his sleeve next.