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Film Review: The Sadness (2021)

For such an iconic and popular sub-genre of horror, zombie cinema has rarely had the chance to reinvent itself. Sure, we’ve had minor changes from properties like Evil Dead (summoned by an ancient book) and 28 Days Later (they RUN now), but the basic idea has remained fairly constant. Despite this, zombie flicks have persisted, not just in the hearts of the genre’s fans, but in the eyes of critics as well.

That being said, it’s always refreshing to see the genre take a unique turn, even if it’s a minor one in the grand scheme of the film. Enter: The Sadness. The zombies in this Taiwanese thriller aren’t your usual brain-munching monsters, but are better described as humans pushed to their absolute worst; they’re less concerned with brunch and a lot more with butchering, raping, and torturing the still-human. Oh, and they can speak… and unsurprisingly, not much of what they have to say is PG.

This fresh take on the zombie we’ve all come to know and dread is complimented to intense levels by the graphic abundance of gore and violence. There are some things shown here that make you wonder if a movie like this could have been made in North America. If you like gore — particularly from practical effects — the amount here is gratuitous. Additionally, the performances given for many of the zombie characters are absolutely terrifying… particularily that of Tzu-Chiang Wang.

Where The Sadness falters is in its script. The story itself is entertaining enough, but the characters and the plot are less interesting and fleshed-out than is desirable. We follow the story of Jim (Berant Zhu) and Kat (Regina Lei), a couple trying to reach each other in the midst of the ever-growing apocalypse. Of the two, Kat’s story is much more entertaining, both in its gory execution and its general happenings; Lei also gives a desperate and captivating performance… giving the character slightly more depth than the otherwise indifferent script gives. Still, neither of the leads are particularly interesting anyway – it would’ve been nice for the writers to pay this aspect more attention.

The gore is certainly the highlight here, but I can’t help but feel The Sadness misses the key piece of the puzzle that we see in some of the better zombie flicks; the inclusion of these monsters is to better emphasize points about human psychology and society. There are a couple moments where the writers try to take it in this direction, namely with dialogue regarding politicization of science (particularly in dire situations) and human nature for violence and depravity, but these ideas are wholly forgotten once they leave the mouths of those given the lines.

Despite its lack of depth, I found The Sadness to be an altogether brutal and grotesque zombie thriller more concerned with visceral, primal entertainment than with clever writing. There’s nothing fantastic about it, but it’s a unique and fun horror flick regardless. If buckets of blood and guts sound like your cup of tea… bottoms up; you’ll get a kick out of it.

Overall rating: 6/10

Published by Jeremy Bader

Aspiring writer, film and music lover, drummer.

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