You’re probably not prepared for this one, but you’ll want to dive in head first.
By Rob Hunter Posted on August 22, 2021
This review of The Sadness is part of our coverage of the Fantasia Film Festival 2021.
When the inevitable history of our current global pandemic is written, entire chapters will be devoted to the art that emerged during his reign. Films touching the subject in 2021 have run the gamut of the funny (How it ends) introspection (The interior of Bo Burnham) to laughable (Songbird). Not to be outdone, the horror genre has seen its own share of virus-inspired films ranging from the big (Host) to the embarrassing exploiter (Crown zombies). Others will undoubtedly follow, but for now the pandemic horror movie to beat – hell, the best new horror movie of the year to beat – is. Rob jabbaz‘s Sadness. Fueled in equal parts by blood and adrenaline, oblivious to the lines of supposedly ‘good’ taste and utterly terrifying in its precise snapshot of humanity, it’s horror that hits you in the guts as you test both your limits and your gag reflex. You will have audible reactions to this one, and they will be glorious.
Kat (Regina) and Jim (Berant Zhu) are young, in love and unhappy to live during a pandemic. Like the rest of Taiwan and the world, really, they’ve endured over a year of endless closures and masks, but when things seem to get better, they instead plunge into unfathomable horror. A variant of the virus is arriving that turns infected people into sadistic and bloodthirsty killers, and its spread through the city’s population is as fast as it is fierce. A calm morning turns into a bloody afternoon and a night filled with carnage, and the young couple fight for survival as they struggle to reunite.
The basic premise of Shabbaz’s zombie horror – no, it’s not technically a zombie movie and instead is aligned with Danny Boyle’s rage bug. 28 days later (2002), but roll with it – is recognizable by fans of the subgenre, but that familiarity won’t prepare you for what to come. Sadness. There is a messy madness in Shabbaz’s vision, but rather than feeling messy or amateurish, the film delivers refined thrills and sets full of suspense as society crumbles around our protagonists. The movie might not be a mess, but the walls, floors, and ceilings inside all take a shoddy hit.
The script is fairly straightforward in its setup and will strike home for those on the rational thinking side as the early beats reveal a pandemic that has been politicized to the point of desperation. Talk show hosts are calling for an end to masking, people are effortlessly returning to selfish lifestyles, and the inevitable bill comes due as the sick suddenly and increasingly violent. They’re not just here to grab a bite and go, oh no – these infected are way more cruel than that. They want to hurt you. They want to cause severe pain. They want to ravage your flesh, assault your body and leave you to sufferâ¦ or to pieces. And Sadness is there to capture it all.
Well, almost all of them. It’s a good thing I promise as Shabbaz and cinematographer Bai Jie-li Stay wisely away from sexual violence. No one, regardless of gender, is immune to the carnage, and while it’s clear what’s going on just off-screen, it remains the only element of terror left to our imaginations. It’s all the more horrifying for its visual rarity as the threat looms and the remnants of the assault are evident. The thought alone is terrifying and the visual teasing we receive greatly amplifies the feeling.
Everything else, however, is on the table in Sadness, and for horror fans who miss the good old days of gory excess and sheer horror, it’s like waking up on Christmas morning in a media room overflowing with never-before-seen villains. Faces are burned in boiling oil, fingers are eaten, bodies are dismembered, eyes are kissed – in one of two nods to the excess of Serbian film (2010) – and that’s hardly a taste of the bloody chaos unfolding here. Subway attack sequence terrifies as an infected person wielding a knife paints the car red, and later setting in a hospital sees the sanctity of the place marred by heinous acts of horror. Acute acts of violence seen in films like 30 days of night (2007) to the erupting infernal landscape of Tumbbad (2018), Jabbaz knowingly smiles as he immerses you in a world that other movies usually just hijack. Here, however, the nightmare is the destination.
Part of what makes it all the more frightening is the presentation of infected people. Their eyes bleed, they smile happily at the thought of what they’re about to do, and though controlled by their urges – toward violence, cruelty, and sexual assault – they’re not stupid enough to forget. how to speak. While far more gory and graphically more brutal than anything the Canadian filmmaker has done, there is a real sense of Cronenbergian deviance (a compliment, I swear) to their primordial thirst. Think back to the years 1975 Thrill, but with a desire for explicit violence and gore associated with the raging identifiers and sexual urges, and you will be in the stage drenched in blood and horny. It’s not an esoteric piece of dark escape, however, as Jabbaz and his friends also come up with a scathing indictment of the current state of humanity. We’ve all seen the abject indifference and cruelty to which our fellow human beings are willing to subdue others at a time when we should all come together, and this truth makes the film’s fiction even more devastating.
While most of the blood and bloodshed Sadness is handy, there are a few CGs here and there that threaten to distract, but the effect doesn’t last long until the next mind-blowing moment or the nerve-wracking scenery arrives. To that end, the unleashed depravity on-screen won’t be to the liking of every horror fan – it’s relentlessly wicked, nihilistic, and bloody, and the lines of decorum that are crossed might understandably cause some viewers to fall back on themselves. to withdraw. There is absolutely no shame in that as this is a movie swinging for the fences, albeit with an ax and baby head replacing the bat and ball, but you see the picture. Slow haunting burns and creepy ghost stories have their place, but sometimes you just want a brutally effective horror movie. It’s like Herman Yao is Ebola Syndrome (1996) and that of Alexandre Aja High tension (2003) locked himself away during a Covid lockdown and conceived an intoxicated child with equal parts of love and rage – Sadness is pure joy.
Related subjects: Fantasia Film Festival
Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is odd considering he’s so young. He’s our chief film critic and associate editor and cites âBroadcast Newsâ as his all-time favorite. Don’t hesitate to say hello if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.