The Sadness is one of the most original takes on zombie films to come around in years. The movie starts with what looks like a virus. This is the root of most of these types of movies, but it is especially topical here. The Alvin virus has been around for about a year, and most in the government have chosen to downplay it. There is an election year coming up and the last thing anyone running for office wants to do is stir up controversy. When the streets erupt in violence and depravity, everyone is forced to pay attention.
It seems like every type of zombie has been seen in films. There have been fast ones, slow ones, ones that fear light, and even vegan zombies. What there has been little of are smart ones. And even less of them have been sexually depraved. The Sadness may be the first one that explores intelligent zombies that want to do more than eat people’s brains. Getting torn to bits is the best cased scenario for those that deal with these infected.
This may be the most frightening aspect of The Sadness. It is not so much the virus or what its victims become. It is scary due to the type of people the infected change into. There is a shocking amount of realism to the movie. Without getting into the scientific mambo-jumbo (the film barely addresses it), those who are sick draw terrifying parallels to the real world.
Talks about the 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, the disease becomes politicized? Of course. The Sadness may as well be holding up a twisted reflection of modern society. It is surprising a movie with little in the way of character development and deep story can be so effective.
The Sadness attacks the viewer on two fronts. Jim and his girlfriend Kat have been separated from each other as the city falls apart around them. Jim’s side of the story sees him fleeing from bloodthirsty hordes as he tries to make his way back to Kat. For her part, Kat is having to deal with one particularly aggressive creature. Her tale is more of the slasher/stalker variety that was popular in 1980s horror.
The two stories are intercut in an almost sketch show format. The two go through a series of events as they try to survive and reunite. Though it may be unintentional, The Sadness paints Kat as the more capable of the two. This is most poignantly seen when Jim has a confrontation with some children. While he often seems lucky, Kat comes off as strong and resourceful. The Sadness is also paced differently than other horror movies. Interspersed between all of the frenzy are slower moments that bring the audience down. It is a turbulent rollercoaster with a huge gap between the peaks and valleys.
However, The Sadness is less concerned with making statements and more interested in disgusting people. It is filled with graphic flesh peeling, buckets of blood, and a pair of eye trauma scenes that would make Lucio Fulci turn away. The film is unbelievably violent and disgusting and even gorehounds may think it has gone too far. Fans of Category III films and Video Nasties will get a kick out of it, but even then, it will be a hard watch. It will definitely leaved an impression on anyone who watches it.
The Fantasia Film Festival takes place in person and online from August 5 – August 25
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