Monday, August 23, 2021

Fantasia Fest 2021 Review: THE SADNESS

 by Patrick Bromley

A well-made movie I kind of hope to never see again.

I can handle a lot. I've watched a lot of horror movies and violent action movies in my lifetime, at times even seeking out those movies I've heard to be extreme in their depiction and usage of the red stuff. Even as a kid, I was drawn to movie violence; when I found out any movie (RoboCop, for example) had received an "X" rating for violence rather than sexuality, I couldn't wait to see it. My two favorite genres are action and horror, both defined more or less by their usage of violence. I come by my love of movie violence (not real-life violence, which I hate) honestly is what I'm trying to say.

The Sadness, the debut feature from writer-director Rob Jabbaz, puts my affection for movie violence to the test, and it's a test I failed. This is an intense, deeply unpleasant film that uses the basic language of zombie movies and George A. Romero's The Crazies but then applies copious amounts of brutal, ugly bloodshed that challenges the viewer to keep watching. Truth be told, there was a moment in the movie that, had I not known I needed to finish it in order to write a review, I might have bailed on The Sadness. There are just certain images I don't want in my head.
A Taiwanese couple, Jim (Berant Zhu) and Kat (Regina Lei), are separated during the outbreak of a pandemic and attempt to reunite as all of Taiwan breaks out in a virus that makes them depraved and homicidal. Terrible, unthinkable things happen. Repeat.

So The Sadness is essentially a rage virus movie, albeit one that pushes the extremity of the brutality to new highs -- or lows, depending on your point of view. I won't describe the kind of shit that happens in the movie, because you're reading this review with one of two reactions: either you know you'll never come within 100 yards of The Sadness, or my hinting at the levels of violence on display has you desperate to see it for yourself, either out of morbid curiosity or just to prove to yourself that you can take it. I can't really fault you for either response. Truth be told, I was unfazed by much of what director Jabbaz had to show me in the film -- like I said, I've seen a lot of cinematic violence and I'm pretty hard to shock at this point -- but then there would be something so nasty or so depraved that I would question not only whether or not I wanted to continue to watch but also just what the fuck I was doing with my life that I was being subjected to this stuff. Again, for some of you, a sentence like that has you foaming at the mouth to see The Sadness. At least you can say you know what you're in for.
I feel as though I've done The Sadness a disservice by making it sound like a bad movie. It isn't. It is very, very good at doing exactly what it wants to do. As a horror movie, it is genuinely horrifying. One could argue it's too good at being horrifying for my own tastes, because the places this movie chooses to go is not why I watch horror movies. I don't want to dissuade anyone from seeing it, provided you're ok with a) a movie about a fictional pandemic that's killing people in the middle of very real pandemic that's killing people and b) some real, real gnarly shit. I'm sure I will continue to seek out violent movies after this one, and that I'll even enjoy many of them. But now, thanks to The Sadness, I know I have my limits.

1 comment:

  1. Gotta say im intrigued by the boundary pushing. Im like you, horror + action = wheelhouse. Based on your description im sure this one will be pushed past the point of over-the-top entertainment but im gonna give it a go. Guessing it'll hit Shudder some time soon.