“The Sadness” is another zombie film that somehow becomes so much more — in the most unexpected of ways — rising to the cream of the crop.
The Sadness is not the type of movie that should stay with you. It’s a zombie movie about a boyfriend who is trying to get across town to save his girlfriend. There are other things at play — it tackles gender roles, government corruption, and human nature — but really, it is just another zombie movie.
Even the fact that it is a throwback to Hong Kong Category III films would seemingly only take the film so far.
It is an extreme zombie film in the same vein as work from Lucio Fulci or George A. Romero. And it is definitely a neat talking point that The Sadness received trigger warnings at genre film fests. But none of that should not make it one of the best-received movies of the year.
And yet, The Sadness had an impressive festival run that included all manner of awards and recognition.
So, how does an ultra-gory zombie flick manage to stand out in a crowded genre?
For starters, the type of violence shown is unlike what is normally seen in the genre.
The movie is short on explanations (there is not much of a story at all), but late in the film, an interesting theory is posited.
Those infected with the Alvin virus that is turning them into violent ghouls are actually completely aware of what they are doing. It is possible that these are not the same mindless zombies audiences are used to seeing. These are people that know exactly what they are doing. Their problem is the virus is preventing them from controlling their urges.
Along with playing into the title (this is not explicitly stated in the film), it adds a whole new layer of fear.
The Sadness essentially becomes a dystopian story where people are doing whatever they want. This leads to some incredibly disgusting scenes, the highlight (lowlight?) being an eye trauma scene that would even make Fulci blush.
The over-the-top gore may be the marketing draw, but it is the overall setting that makes the film so memorable.
Discussion about a pandemic being a hoax? Check. Rumors the virus is a government conspiracy? You better believe it. Even as millions become infected and the death toll mounts, does the disease become politicized? Of course.
The Sadness may as well be holding up a twisted reflection of modern society.
The Sadness is not a perfect movie. The characters are incredibly thin. And while there is plenty of subtext, there is not much actual story. It’s not really that there are plot holes, but I often found myself filling in gaps to flesh out the movie’s universe.
This is most noticeable during the rushed ending when the film throws out a number of random elements before its unsatisfying Dawn of the Dead inspired ending.
And yet, this all ends up working in the movie’s favor.
It is surprising that a movie with little in the way of character development or story depth can be so effective. It makes the audience think in a way that many so-called “elevated” horror movies can only dream of accomplishing.
The Sadness is more concerned with disgusting people than it is with making statements. By doing so, it becomes one of the most powerful movies of the year.