It’s just another morning in Taiwan, Jim and Kat waking before the alarm, she heading to work on the subway and he exchanging pleasantries with the neighbour while the news continues to discuss the Alvin Virus, endemic in the population but relatively benign; some have raised concerns that it may mutate to something more dangerous, but they have been dismissed, accused of attempting to politicise the situation.
And then it happens, the flashpoint as the change takes hold, a sudden loss of inhibition which prompts the infected to become violent, cruel, sadistic; worse, as they attack others and blood is spilled, the mutation is passed on so those who survive are swiftly turned and become carriers themselves. Kat somewhere in the city without her phone, can Jim find her before the epidemic does?
The zombie genre having slowed somewhat after the deluge in the wake of The Walking Dead, they still won’t lie down, writer/director Rob Jabbaz offering the bitter taste of The Sadness (哭悲, Kū bēi) starring Berant Zhu and Regina Lei as Jim and Kat, defenceless and under assault from every side, the authorities overwhelmed and the insidious virus taking an unpredictable course through the population.
Some of the infected immediately aggressive, others respond differently, the virus leaving higher brain activity unimpaired but removing any control imposed by self or society, described as like being “possessed by an evil spirit” as a liberating euphoria and sense of purpose drives them to give into whatever impulses and desires they have repressed, stalking, taunting, torturing.
The Sadness taking the pandemic as a springboard to launch its premise, nothing is considered too outrageous and anything becomes a weapon, gardening shears, an umbrella and a deep fat fryer alongside the more conventional guns, knives and axes, and at times gore seems to be more important than plot, the performers and sets drenched in blood, literally hosed down in one scene until they are slipping on the floors, unable to escape.
As exhaustingly unremitting as …28 Days Later or the remake of Dawn of the Dead, The Sadness suffers from overlong pauses of little happening as the characters catch their breath and consider their fate between the outbreaks of ultraviolence and depravity, but with another outburst always in the offing it will delight fans of the zombie apocalypse and extreme horror.
The Sadness will be available on Shudder from Thursday 12th May