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  Sadness, The Turn That Frown Upside Down
Year: 2021
Director: Rob Jabbaz
Stars: Berant Zhu, Regina Lei, Chen Ying-Ru, Wang Tzu-Chiang, Emerson Tsai, Lan Wei-Hua, Ralf Chiu, Chou Chin-Min, Huang Lue-Keng
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: A viral pandemic has recently hit Taiwan, but most people believe it to be little worse than the flu, and not worth worrying about. Indeed, some don't believe there has been any virus at all, that the whole controversy has been a hoax and pure hype, as the neighbour of young Taipei couple Jim (Berant Zhu) and Kat (Regina Lei) does. They have other things to concern them, mostrly about work and the meagre time off they get, though Jim is convinced he can get a promotion that Kat isn't sure about. After a frosty time in the kitchen that morning, they get on Jim's scooter to drive to work, and part on better terms; just as well when the world is about to go straight to Hell in the proverbial handbasket...

Funny thing about the Sadness in this movie, it doesn't make the sufferers sad, if anything quite the opposite, they’re positively upbeat about being transformed into no restrictions, depraved sex and violence monsters. This was the feature debut of Canadian director Rob Jabbaz, who had been making short works as was so often the way, an adaptation of a comic book that prided itself on going as extreme as possible. That said, it could have gone further (you can always go further) in how graphic it was, but if you wanted that there was always A Serbian Film, which was referenced in the fate of one character here. Mostly it was the pandemic turning citizens insane storyline we had witnessed many times before leading back to the nineteen-seventies where it all began.

That was an era where it genuinely could feel as if society was breaking down, only torn down by internal forces rather than an invasion, and it has affected horror and science fiction ever since, call it paranoia or whatever. In the twenty-twenties that paranoia had crystallised into a way of life for many across the globe, so little wonder the imaginations of the genre filmmakers continued to be fired up by the concept of society going stark raving mad, assisted by an actual pandemic, lack of funds, and politics that had turned into an endless series of slanging matches and oneupmanship that did not appear to have any interest in helping out the people who it was supposed to. This was the background of The Sadness, yet Jabbaz was reluctant to engage with the bigger picture too far when he could use the mass breakdown as an excuse to get gory and obscene.

Jim and Kat were separated early on in the plot and spent the rest of it trying to get back together, keeping in touch through the uncertain medium of mobile phones (this was a horror unafraid to utilise the technology to its advantage). Jim realises something is seriously wrong when he goes into a café and finds one of the patrons going nuts with the chip pan, which when he backs out into the street, sees a load of other victims having gone nuts and raping and murdering anyone not infected. Kat meanwhile is on the subway when she is politely hassled by the salaryman (Wang Tzu-Chiang) sitting next to her, a creepy touch being we don't know if he is just obnoxious or in the early stages of the disease. Once a breakout occurs in the carriage, Kat becomes the guardian of Molly (Chen Ring-Yu) who was injured, and they wind up in a hospital that soon falls prey to the marauders, and things do become genuinely tense as the tone was so flippantly bleak that it does seem like all is lost. Maybe that was a problem: you don't know how far to invest in the blatantly doomed, after all, but the spectacle and sheer forward motion of the piece did impress.

[The Sadness - A Shudder Original
New Film Premieres 12th May 2022.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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