The Sadness movie review & film summary (2022)

Even more impressive, the rest of this constantly violent movie is about as mean as it is nasty. Jabbaz’s basic-but-propulsive chase narrative doesn’t really concern the representative evil of people, as groups, but rather people as universally flawed individuals. The infected monsters in “The Sadness” not only run, curse, and verbally threaten everyone else—their violence also inadvertently highlights the ugly, amoral nature of various fight or flight responses. 

Like a lot of disaster movies, “The Sadness” only superficially concerns the reunification of two lovers: Jim (Berant Zhu) and Kat (Regina Lei) try to get back together after a spike in the mysterious Alvin virus separates them and also compels various infected victims to commit random acts of murder, torture, and sexual assault. The infected live to make everyone else suffer, which can be pretty overwhelming (for viewers) given that the infected are instantly compelled to hurt or be hurt by others.

The black-eyed monsters in “The Sadness” also bring out the worst in everybody around them, even the Samaritans and fellow victims we might want to root for. The Alvin virus does not, in that sense, have a distinct character, but rather a general destabilizing effect. For example: Kat is pursued by a nameless businessman (Tzu-Chiang Wang) who, before he becomes an axe-wielding monster, tries to chat her up on the subway (very much against her wishes). Most of the other Alvin virus victims serve as interchangeable threats. Because while the Alvin virus mutates humanity, it doesn’t really transform us: they’re all ugly because everybody in “The Sadness” has a moment or two of unsettling, character-testing weakness.

Jabbaz’s movie would probably be rather tedious if he and his co-creators weren’t so good at contriving excuses to be gross. They’re keen rug-pullers and the zombie-like violence in “The Sadness” often works despite its penchant for macabre elbow-ribbing macabre humor. Zombie fans may note similarities between the depraved mutants in “The Sadness” and the equally vicious cannibals in Crossed, a blood-soaked and confrontationally ugly comic series (and acknowledged influence) that follows a plague of dystopian blood-letting. In both cases, the monsters seem to know what they’re doing, because they can not only run and move at human speeds, but also verbally taunt their victims. One character in “The Sadness” points out that the infected need to get off on their victims’ suffering, which explains why they don’t attack each other.

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