The Sadness review: A zombie movie this gruesome doesn’t need pat morals

Since George Romero .’s 1968 classic Night of the Dead Turning a monster movie into a meditation on institutional racism, zombie movies have become one of the horror genre’s most effective vehicles for sociological observation: Dawn of the Dead knocking down consumer culture, while Shaun of the Dead parody the soul-killing nature of work and everyday life. But that doesn’t mean every zombie movie has to take on big themes about the human condition. With Sadness, Taiwan’s new zombie genre film Shudder, Canadian writer and director, freshman Rob Jabbaz, definitely wants to join the ranks of those classics. But he cannot find the proper measure of ingenuity and shamelessness to marry his ghastly blood and violence, with the moral lessons he seems to think he must. must provide.

Sadnessinspired by Garth Ennis’ Passed manga series, about a young couple in Taiwan, Jim (Berant Zhu) and Kat (Regina Lei). Jim takes Kat to work just hours before a zombie(ish) outbreak sends them searching for each other amid the chaos. These infected are not traditional zombies. Jabbaz substitutes something more terrible: His highly contagious virus, which shares similarities with rabies, causes victims to commit their most brutal acts. They have no shame and no power to stop themselves – and they succumb to their terrifying urges with a grin, unwavering on their faces.

[Ed. note: The rest of this review includes brief descriptions of some particularly grotesque acts of physical and sexual violence.]

It’s a good enough premise, but Jabbaz focuses too much on trying to find a profound metaphor that isn’t there, rather than letting the setup be just an excuse for some gratuitous and ridiculous gore most recent memory.

Throughout his script, Jabbaz tries to find something important to talk about on a number of topics. At the beginning of the film, before the chaos begins, a news broadcast includes a scientist complaining about everyone who believes that the pandemic in space is a hoax, and no one left. trust scientists. As Kat immerses herself in the head of an infected character – a man who has spent the entire movie trying to rape her – he exclaims that this makes her like him, seemingly implying that To some extent, most people crave the opportunity to participate in extreme violence. The movie even delves into this when an uninfected character, with his dying breath, mentions how wonderful it feels to kill an infant.

Jabbaz also spends part of the film’s pre-infection time with Kat as she is harassed on her way home from work, briefly exploring the horror of women being accused and threatened in everyday life. day. Her harasser then becomes infected and follows her across the city. But the discovery of routine gender-based violence was quickly abandoned, and just minutes later, people were being raped in the streets by infected people, who grinned and waved to passers-by. Street.

It’s not entirely clear what Jabbaz wants viewers to get out of all of this. Are news broadcasts’ allusions to pandemic responses really meant to bring some insight into the contagion here? Does he think humanity is bound only by social order, or is the idea of ​​”Everybody secretly wants to commit atrocities” is just an old-fashioned horror movie sarcasm? Whatever the answer, Jabbaz poses the questions, then drops them altogether, which makes the film all the more compelling than he never asked at all.

It’s disappointing that the texting aspect of the drama doesn’t work out, because Sadness is best when it’s shamelessly violent. When the virus first hit, Jim was at a cafeteria drinking coffee when an infected person walked in and attacked someone, killing them and infecting everyone around them. What started as a regular coffee order suddenly turns into a dizzying action and chase sequence, as people start tearing each other apart, Jim rushes out, and several infected people follow. chase him from back alleys to busy streets. Soon after, a train carriage plunges into near-ending violence with the entire carriage covered in blood.

Underlying all of these attacks are some striking realistic effects and prosthetics. The victims were massacred and torn apart in all sorts of ways, and each death seemed unique in its own way that was both striking and repulsive. Jabbaz even uses the blood spurts from cuts and stabs to give the shots forward momentum, like he’s creating a red timeline of the fight on the floors and walls.

A character from Shudder's The Sadness rides a motorbike to run away from zombies

Image: shivers

But he’s not content with resting on all that great gore. He spends most of the rest of his time Sadness‘run time sets up almost vignettes where infected – and sometimes uninfected – characters do the worst things imaginable. Specific actions, from stabbing a man’s crotch into an electric pole covered with barbed wire to a man raping a woman’s empty eye socket, are designed to shock , and they sure are horrible. While none of this feels preposterous with the film’s other brutal acts, it does feel out of place with the opening scenes. It’s like Jabbaz is saying, “If you think sexual harassment is bad, think about how much worse it could be.”

A lot of great movies played fast and loose with the grotesque – and many were much more difficult than this one. But exploit horror movies like Wes Craven 1977 version of The hills have eyes do so with less shame and with more tact. (Jabbaz has a habit of letting his characters remind audiences, literally, of the atrocities they’ve just committed.) The line between absurdity and effectiveness is very desirable. fragile in the face of these kinds of extremes, and Sadness ends up in the absurd too often for its shocking value to really land.

As weird as it sounds like in a movie where a man is forced to eat a grenade, some of this sounds like a matter of timidity. Jabbaz stops at every turn to try to justify himself or avoid the worst of his carnage. But he lacked confidence in his immaturity, as if he felt it would be more acceptable to turn violence into a metaphor. Overall sensational films need not stress over a few flimsy justifications – they may exist to reassure the brave few of us who want it, and Sadness‘tonal dissonance only hinders that goal.

While zombie movies often operate in broad strokes, the extreme exploitation horror genre Jabbaz is working on thrives on the specificity of its situation and characters. But with Sadnessbody mass becomes so exhausting, and the violence is so widespread that it provokes any debate on a broader scale.

To Jabbaz’s credit, he is playing in a difficult genre and one that has been starved for the past few years – though 2021 Wrong turn remake will better serve people who are looking for something shocking. More frustrating is the obvious that Jabbaz is a talented director. Hidden in bits and pieces of Sadness is a really great Train to Busanin the style of a zombie action movie, but Jabbaz’s film is weighed down by its own importance and self-destructive impulses that keep the action from ever getting a chance to shine.

Movie theaters are full of talented cross-dressers, and provocative cinema has a long and famous history, dating back to 1916 Merciless and the years 1929 Un Chien Andalou arrive Cannibal tribe and countless movies since. If you’re going to do something gross, you have to do it right, or very, very wrong, and Sadness completely unmanageable either. It just can’t admit that not all zombie movies have to have morals, metaphors, or messages.

Sadness is streaming on Shudder starting May 12. The Sadness review: A zombie movie this gruesome doesn’t need pat morals

Zack Zwiezen

Zack Zwiezen is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Zack Zwiezen joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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