The Sadness Movie Review

Written by Joel Harley

Released by Raven Banner


Written and directed by Rob Jabbaz
2021, 99 minutes, Rated 18
Grimmfest UK Premiere on 8th October 2021

Regina Lei as Kat
Berant Zhu as Jim
Tzu Chiang-Wang as Businessman


Of all the many breeds of cinematic zombie, one of the most under-represented is the inhibition-free ‘Crazy’, or ‘Fun-Loving’ zombie. Retaining an ability for logical thought, imagination and coherent speech, the Fun-Loving Zombie is no mere re-animated corpse or rage-infected moron. Operating utterly without inhibition or boundaries, the Fun-Loving Zombie just wants to have a little fun.

Popularised (if you bothered to see it) in George A. Romero’s The Crazies – and its 2010 remake – and indie horrors like The Taint and Mom and Dad (yes, it counts), The Fun-Loving Zombie still awaits its proper moment in the sun. This Taiwanese effort is here to tide viewers over while they wait for an adaptation of James Herbert’s The Fog, or Garth Ennis’s Crossed (you're never getting The Gas, though. Dream on, you dirty bastards). Directed by Rob Jabbaz, The Sadness finally lets the Fun-Loving Zombie cut loose. But whoever could have foreseen them doing it all over the streets of Taipei?

the sadness 01 the sadness 02

After years spent trying to fend off a pandemic – the relatively mild ‘Alvin’ virus – a nation begins to let its guard down. Crowds gather in busy restaurants and hospitals; the subway train to work is packed with commuters, most of whom don’t bother wearing a mask. Not that masking up will protect anyone from the slathering jaws of a crazed Fun Zombie, but it might have prevented the virus from mutating in the first place. 

With the nation out of lockdown, Alvin suddenly mutates – turning its people into grinning, frothing-at-the-mouth lunatics, with nothing on their minds but rape, murder and wholesale mayhem. Lovers Jim (Berant Zhu) and Kat (Regina Lei) find themselves separated when she heads off to work only hours before society crumbles.

the sadness 03 the sadness 04

Jabbaz takes a different approach to the zombie apocalypse than we saw in Final Days or #Alone, with which The Sadness shares a broad concept (reportedly developed from the same screenplay). Rather than worry about how its heroes are holding up mentally, Jabbaz throws the pair into a death metal gorefest, and one of the bloodiest zombie movies since Peter Jackson’s Braindead. The action gets horrendously messy fast, and stays in that zone, careening wildly between its two leads’ stories at a breakneck pace. While Jim takes to the streets in search of his loved one, Kat’s journey is fraught with perverts, madmen… and zombies. Pitch black eyes and rictus joker smiles herald the most unsettling zombies since those of the Evil Dead remake, but the all-too human businessman slash sex pest slash mysognist (Tzu-Chiang Wang) is the film’s most memorable monster.

Kicking off with a dual-pronged cafeteria and subway car attack, The Sadness struggles to keep up its momentum after the first hour, but never loses its ability to shock. No taboo is left unmolested in this all-out assault on good taste. Not for the faint of heart, then, nor those who have grown weary of the awful, hopeless world in which we live. By the time the closing credits roll on The Sadness, one would be forgiven for feeling a little numb. A film can only trade on shock value for so long, and this one is all but spent by the end.

the sadness 05 the sadness 06

Those looking for nuance or subtlety would be advised to look elsewhere, as would its weaker-stomached audience. This nihilistic barrage of violent splatter is a furious indictment of humanity; its zombies all too human – and all too eager to give in to their darkest impulses. To hell with everyone else – what about what I want to do?

As the saying goes, if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention. Jabbaz taps into a righteous fury to bring the world one of the meanest, nastiest, and dirtiest zombie horror films in decades. There’s a mournful despondency there, sure, but it’s that sense of rage that sets The Sadness apart from its peers.


Movie: 4.5 Star Rating Cover

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Joel Harley
Staff Reviewer
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for Horror DNA and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
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