Every year, horror fans and lovers try to undertake the daunting task of watching a horror film every day in the month of October. Aptly named 31 days of horrorThe challenge is usually that viewers see a mix of their favorite classics, current releases and popular genre classics that may be new to them. To celebrate the spooky season, we at MovieWeb have put together our own suggestions for the month, featuring a wealth of favorites from our contributing writers and editors. Check out ours 31 days of horror Post every day this October and enjoy all the weird found footage, evil vampires, and slashers you could ever want. Today we’re getting started Day 29 with the incredibly creepy social horror film from Taiwan, Sadness.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an overwhelming sense of empathy and camaraderie as people from all walks of life fought a common enemy. But as weeks of lockdown turned into months, these well-intentioned if misguided attempts at positivity – the clanging of pots and pans for healthcare workers, the infamous celebrity cover of “Imagine” – failed. We were tired of being locked in our homes, we were tired of having to work in unsafe conditions without adequate support, we were tired of politicizing something as simple as wearing a mask. It was all too much.
Even beyond its many variants, COVID had mutated; And while the threat of disease and even death was still very real, there was something far scarier out there than the virus: people. In his scary zombie film 2021 SadnessWriter/director Rob Jabbaz realizes this fear to the fullest. Inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Comic series by Garth Ennis CrossedSadness is about a terrible virus outbreak on the compact island nation of Taiwan. A simple flu-like virus called the “Alvin” virus has mutated, causing (or enabling) its victims to live out their most violent and sadistic fantasies. Unlike the well-known zombies, who are just out to eat, the infected are in Sadness are intelligent, able to strategize and implement a plan in search of sick pleasure.
The story follows a young couple, Kat and Jim, who attempt to reunite amidst rampant chaos and bloodshed. Because of his commitment to showing all the blood and depravity that his narrative entails, Sadness is not for everyone; But for those with a penchant for the grotesque, Jabbaz and his team make full use of their effects budget to show us the horror of a society eating itself alive.
The Alvin virus is like COVID-19
Sadness opens with a scene we’re all familiar with: a mysterious virus with flu-like symptoms spreading rapidly through a busy population. People know about it, but the supposedly mild effects of the Alvin virus are nothing to worry about. In the background, scientists are warning about the virus’s potential to mutate into something deadly, but few people are listening. Those doing this include conspiracy theorists and other bad actors who are convinced that the virus is just part of a government plan to control citizens.
In this moment of normality, we meet Kat and Jim, a young couple struggling with career and relationship problems. They’re aware of Alvins – Jim even watches one of those conspiracy videos while getting ready in the morning – but there’s not much they can do about it and life takes a toll on them. On this seemingly normal weekday morning, Jim spots the harbinger of their collective doom: standing on a nearby roof, a disheveled older woman stares eerily and smiles. In an instant it’s gone, embedded in the back of Jim’s mind. After all, there’s no time to worry about the possibility of a fatal illness when work calls.
It’s fitting that our and Jim’s introduction to the mutated Alvin virus comes in the form of an old woman. COVID also hit the vulnerable older population hard and fast, and it wasn’t long before politicians and other online “intellectuals” were suggesting the unthinkable. To save the economy, said Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, the older ones have to sacrifice themselves; In fact, that’s what they would want. The old woman inside Sadness embodies this population that must die on the altar of capital and is only given the opportunity to speak for itself when it is too late.
The virus reinforces our worst instincts
The infected in Sadness are a new breed of zombies characterized by their staring black eyes, tear-stained cheeks, and terrible smiles. They plan not only how to realize their darkest desires, but also how to ensure that their victims suffer as much as possible. Their pleasure lies in the pain of others. What’s worse is that these joys are not simply a symptom of the virus, but rather the zombies’ disgusting behavior comes directly from their once uninfected brains.
Nowhere is this more evident than with the businessman Kat meets on the train. In the crowded subway car, people wait patiently to reach their destination while keeping themselves busy and distracted in the meantime. While almost everyone is on the phone, Kat is reading a book, which her curious neighbor on the train takes as an opportunity to do something. The older man tells Kat that he has seen her many times on the train, that she is incredibly beautiful and obviously smart. But she’s having none of it and politely asks the man to leave her alone; When he raises the issue, Kat becomes louder and tells the man that if he doesn’t stop, she will report him for sexual harassment.
The man turns away in horror. He’s obviously troubled, but not by the implication: he’s angry because even though he did everything “right,” Kat failed to properly reward him for his behavior. The businessman is a creep whose old-fashioned perception of gender relations is reinforced once he is infected with the Alvin virus. Free from social mores and fear of legal repercussions, the businessman pursues Kat tirelessly to get the sexual satisfaction he believes he deserves.
Likewise, the COVID pandemic appeared to increase bad behavior. It started with hoarding: staples like masks, antibacterial cleaners and, especially, toilet paper couldn’t stay on store shelves, in part because people were buying up large quantities and keeping them for themselves or, worse, selling them at a high price. Then there were the greedy business owners and corporations fraudulently accepted government loansThey pocket the money instead of using it to support their employees. And who can forget the deniers, the maskless, unvaccinated people who decided it was their patriotic duty to actively put others in danger? While the virus hasn’t exactly turned us into a zombie, it has certainly changed our views and behaviors for the worse, reinforcing our selfishness in favor of our individual sense of “normalcy.”
Bad behavior in times of crisis
Sadness begins its final act after Kat kills the crazy businessman and finds refuge with the government virologist. Hidden in the hospital’s maternity ward, the virologist desperately searches for a cure to put an end to the violence. Nothing works. He explains to Kat that Alvin affects the limbic system, the part of the brain involved in behavioral and emotional responses. This lower-order area of emotional processing is primarily about survival, and as such is not concerned with things like rationality or social mores.
“We think that humans are intelligent organisms that can think and make logical decisions,” says the virologist, “but the reality is that we are slaves to our limbic system. The higher brain exists only to serve it.” As he explains, this means that the infected are acting out of a physical, insatiable need; Even though they know what they are doing and are horrified by it, they are unable to stop it.
If we go back to individual responses to COVID and its lockdowns, we can see the same thing happening (albeit with less obvious violence). As selfish as actions like hoarding, reselling, and refusing to mask may be, there is also an undeniable streak of instinctive self-preservation that cannot be ignored. Given the scary truth of a global pandemic and a state that does not care for its citizens in the midst of it, it is no wonder that people have done everything they can to protect themselves physically, mentally and financially.
Give up, give in
Anti-capitalist criticism is nothing new in the zombie genre; Ever since Romero’s classic, it has been a driving force behind our interpretations of the undead Night of the Living Deadif not longer. Sadness takes this idea and brings it into direct conversation with COVID, asking how political and capitalist concerns have nihilistically shaped our response to the virus. Most people realize that the… The answer is anything but good.
Sadness ends with a close-up of Jim’s lopsided grin. On his journey to save Kat from being infected in the hospital, our hero becomes the monster we would all like to believe his love could defeat. As the camera focuses on the dying man’s face, distant gunshots signal Kat’s needless death at the hands of the same government that failed to act sooner because, as the virologist tells Kat, “It’s an election year, and [the politicians] I don’t want to risk pushing the country into recession.” It’s just easier to come clean than to go through the work and expense of rescuing people. And even though Jim dies, his unwavering smile illustrates the millions left to pick up right where we left off before 2020, regardless of the horrors we all endured.
Sadness Is Streaming on Shudder and AMC+ as well as YouTube, The Roku Channel and Prime Video with a premium subscription. It can be rented on digital platforms such as Vudu. You can follow along with MovieWeb’s 31 Days of Horror by checking out our Advent Calendar below: