The Sadness – 哭悲 (Taiwanese Pandemic Body Horror)


The zombie thing is normally redundant, but, luckily, there are enough creative minds out there to twist the tropes into new forms that are easily understood, yet different in their themes. That brings us to a new 4K release from Vinegar Syndrome of the Taiwanese body horror slaughterfest, The Sadness, feature-length debut of Canadian director Rob Jabbaz. A surprisingly effective and utterly disgusting look at societal breakdown amid disease and the primal madness waiting within us all, the story follows Jim, living with his girlfriend Kat, living the day-to-day but soon the rapid spread of the Alvin virus in Taiwan separates them through distance and bloodshed. Will Jim make it to her in time, is it possible?


Sound familiar? It is, but the result isn’t. In The Sadness the virus doesn’t turn the infected into mindless shamblers, rather it accentuates their intelligence and turns them into bloodthirsty, and extremely sexual, killing machines with every ounce of their original creative natures intact. Those who remain immune to the virus, or who have yet to be infected, become targets of some of the most extreme violence you’re going to see out of Asian cinema, including body horror and sexual brutality that will make simpler horror junkies swallow their own puke to pretend they can take it. In spite of the abject gross you’ll find in The Sadness, within the chaos is commentary on human nature, with clever references to the COVID-19 pandemic and its mentally crippling effects. Just when you feel for a character or connect with them, the virus takes hold, and by the end you’re uncertain if anything good can come out of the real form humanity takes when it’s at war with its own nature. The Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray comes with the expected extras including short films from the director, commentary, and the like, fleshing out this wonderful package though unfortunately the special slipcase version sold out in only a few hours. Can’t get your hands on either version? It’s on Shudder as well.


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Written by Stanley, Devourer of Souls

The Sadness (2024, Blu-ray)
Director: Rob Jabbaz
Distributor: Vinegar Syndrome, Shudder
4.6 / 5