*SPOILER WARNING – The Sadness features scenes of extreme sexual violence which will shock and offend some viewers*

After a year of lockdowns battling a pandemic with relatively benign symptoms, a frustrated Taiwan relaxes its quarantine restrictions and the exhausted population finally start to mix once more.

But the virus has been patient, and spontaneously mutates, affecting the minds of its victims, driving them to commit unspeakable acts of rage-fuelled violence and sickening depravity, freeing their baser instincts.

As the virus burns out of control, the streets erupts in an orgy of murder, torture, rape and mutilation, young lovers Kat (Regina) and Jim (Berant Zhu), trapped on opposite sides of the city, must battle to survive and be reunited as their world devolves into chaos and blood crazed madness…

A gloriously gory, transgressive Taiwanese take on George Romeo’s classic The Crazies that would probably have the horror maestro birling in his grave, The Sadness, director Rob Jabbz’s debut feature is as rabid a beast as it’s infected victims, angrily indicting a cynical media, an inept government response and a listless, disaffected populace in the spread of infection, a frantic epidemiologist’s warnings ridiculed by a Jeremy Vine-style morning host is background to our protagonists’ morning routine, a patriotism-inflected government press conference quite literally explodes in a shocking act of violence and a packed subway train devolves into gleefully excessive bloody carnage as the infection spreads through the largely unmasked passengers, a doctor mourns that no one really trusts doctors any more.

It’s not subtle but neither are Jabbz’s targets as he delivers his angry sermon on the dangers of complacency while meting out a hefty dose of sadistic violence and bloody rape, a gory gang bang in a hospital corridor quite literally stomach churning as the participants rip and tear at a victim with a surgical saw and their bare hands and teeth, cannibalising him while the horror of his train attack set-piece feels all too real in a world where knife-wielding terrorists commit mayhem on our streets and public transport, Jabbz not just killing our sacred cows as he scathingly depicts a society in collapse but taking a claw hammer to their skulls and feasting on their brains as he violates every taboo, no one is safe.

As the loving couple battling to survive, Regina and Berant Zhu are likable and just well developed enough for you to care about, slacker Jim (Zhu) driven to find and be with Regina’s Kat in what may be there last hours while Kat transforms through the course of the film into a smart, resourceful protagonist, driven to supply. There’s strong support too from Tzi-Chiang Wang as an increasingly unhinged salaryman who, rejected after making a pass at Kat on the train, becomes a rape-happy personification of toxic masculinity, a raging id given free reign and a fire axe. And, yes, he did just do that awful thing you thought he did!

Nasty, visceral and angry The Sadness is a high-octane, thrilling, no-holds-barred, balls to the wall, ride through an imploding society right up to its cruelly affecting climax.

Arrow Video Frightfest Review: The Sadness
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