By Dakota Cantwell
Canadian writer, director and editor Rob Jabbaz’s debut film comes with a trigger warning as he dives into the graphic nature of humanity and the shortcomings during apocalyptic events. “The Sadness” takes an over-the-top, disturbing approach in this classic rage zombie story of two lovers trapped on opposite sides of the city forced to do what they must to survive a Taiwan acting on humanity’s worst traits to watch others suffer.
The film begins by introducing the leads, Kat and Jim, played by Regina Lei and Berant Zhu respectively. Giving the viewer a glimpse into the view young loves life before the troubles of their morning are long forgotten by a city in ruin. Both performers are relatively new in the film scene, with only one or two films before “The Sadness,” but their performances give the feeling that they are seasoned in their own right. The chemistry between the two on-screen consumes everything in the scene, leaving a compelling story down to the final scene of the film.
The villain of the film bears the name the Alvin virus, and debuting in the third year of the COVID pandemic, this should come as no surprise. The Alvin virus, however, turns those infected into rage zombies that seek only to hurt others. This common zombie theme gives Jabbaz the groundwork to make commentary on mankind’s flaws and weaknesses as everyone that Kat and Jim come across in the film offer some type of threat to them, infected or not. Backed by the over-the-top gore and truly unsettling scenes, Jabbaz does not shy away from showing a disdain for the impulses of humanity.
On the subject of gore, Jabbaz’s use of practical effects creates a genuinely visceral response from the viewers. No time is wasted before zombies are projectile vomiting on victims and faces are being burned off with hot grease. Jabbaz, Logan Sprangers and the creative team at IF SFX Art Maker create truly appalling, realistic effects that are deserving of the trigger warning at the beginning of the film. Fueled by nightmares and the unsettling reality of humanity, “The Sadness” creates effects and feelings that will not be soon forgotten.
Adding to the impactful practical effects, Jabbaz’s use of a simple score and sound effects creates a chaos to the scenes and overall tone of the film. One scene, in particular, has no zombies or death on screen, but through the use of the film’s score and well-timed sound effects, viewers are able to experience the confusion and fear of Jim as he makes his way through Taiwan.
Jabbaz has an eye for cinematography that is useful when creating his horrifying visions of a city ravaged by monsters. Balancing tight, up-close shots to focus and hide things from the audience with expansive, panoramic shots to expose the consequences of the violence. Every shot in this film is used to propel the story or make another commentary on humanity.
While the realism and graphic nature of this film can be praised, those things are also a downside to the film. The nonstop violence, both physical and sexual in nature, can be off-putting and triggering to many. Jabbaz’s use of such things to make commentary on humanity’s worst side and failures in a time of crisis are offset by the B-level horror aspect of many of the goriest scenes. These moments offer a lightening of the violence that makes the film work despite its dark tone.
“The Sadness” seeks to capitalize on the COVID fear to comment on the same pandemic. Jabbaz’s use of upsetting scenes and strong storytelling techniques create a zombie film that makes more than the usual comments on the COVID pandemic. It may not be hailed as a classic, but “The Sadness” will be a film not soon forgotten.
Categories: Zombie films
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