This review is slightly amended from the one that was first published for The Sadness's presentation at London FrightFest 2021

The Sadness arrives with a lot of baggage and a reputation that does it favours yet immediately goes against. It is extremely violent and unpleasant in places and more so than would probably be presented in what could be termed a ‘mainstream’ release.

But by concentrating on the violence other elements could be overlooked requiring a second or third viewing if there is an appetite for it.
We open with the discussion in Taiwan regarding the Alvin pandemic that is mutating. It’s been roundly turned on by some as a pre-election scare story while scientists are being dismissed for their caution.

Meanwhile the public carry on a normal and we find Kat (Regina) and Jim (Berant Zhu) getting ready for work and another normal day. Though Jim has noticed someone on a roof close by just staring into the horizon, wearing a blood-soaked garment. After a friendly exchange with their neighbour the couple set off on Jim’s scooter.

En route to the metro they pass an incident with the police and some very agitated citizens plus a heavily blood-soaked body. Dropping Kat off at the station Jim goes to café passing the incident noting that only the police car is there.

At the café there’s some banter with the server when the person in white arrives, spits gloop all over one of the patrons who then takes a turn and viciously attacks another while the person in white picks up the fat fryer and pours it over the head of the server. No sooner has one started to turn than the others do: its immediate. Spying Jim, an uninfected they chase him managing to escape on the scooter.

On the underground Kat is harassed by a man (Tzu-Chiang Wang) who won’t take no for an answer, pathetically trying to justify his actions. A man gets on whom we can see is going start something. And, in a tense scene, does so with a ferocious knife attack that leads to mass infection and another blood bath.

Escaping Kat is pursued by the man (on a Yul Brynner Westworld quest) and just about escapes before the underground is shut down. The film is now set for Jim and Kat to try and find each other amongst all the carnage.

Naturally there’s a lot of blood and killing before the two meet with Jim losing some fingers and a sequence that revived memories of the gym scene from James Herbert’s The Fog, sort of. For Kat its fighting off the man and dealing with cowards and scientists who may or may not have something to say and justify their methods trying to unravel the pandemic.

It’s the latter that could get overlooked as there are genuine issues here about science and how far is it is ethical to go. There’s also a political angle to consider with the government and the army broadcasting. Which is interesting as this is a Taiwanese film – albeit written by Canadian Rob Jabbaz who’s worked extensively in the country - and has complicated relationship with China and the rest of the world. It’s one of those films where an understanding of the regional politics may offer a little more to the viewer

On a technical level there’s little to argue with Jabbaz’s direction which is fast paced and breathless during the action/killing sequences though also happy to be restrained during the more expository elements. There’s a vague dark humour about it all but that’s generally pummelled out by the sort of hellish scenes that are only briefly, tantalisingly glimpsed in Event Horizon and fully realised here.

The Sadness is available on Shudder.