Is The Sadness really as disturbing as the internet claims?

The Sadness - courtesy AMC/Shudder
The Sadness - courtesy AMC/Shudder /

Highly-anticipated Taiwanese horror film The Sadness has made its debut on Shudder, and viewers immediately took to the internet to express their thoughts and feelings.

Although you have the usual percentage of horror fans who claim it’s not actually disturbing at all (and, of course, the “no horror really scares me anymore” faction spoke up as well), the vast majority of people who watched The Sadness said exactly the opposite.

I am a very seasoned horror fan, and I am also an across-the-board lover of horror. If it’s a good film, blood and guts don’t really phase me; I love action-packed horror and slow burns equally, and I enjoy classics such as Halloween and Black Christmas, but I also love discovering new, innovative films. A good old American film is great, but subtitles are ok too.

As such, I watched The Sadness so I could see for myself if it lived up to the hype. Let me start by saying that the budget for the blood used in this film must have been enormous. So. Much. Blood.

The Sadness
The Sadness – Courtesy Shudder /

Warning:  Spoilers for The Sadness lie ahead.

The storyline is interesting and compelling, introducing us to a virus called Alvin, which has started to mutate in terrifying ways. We also meet Kat and Jim, a young couple who start off their day with a minor argument before Jim drops Kat off for her morning subway commute to work.

Enjoy that brief opening sequence, because The Sadness amps up very quickly, and you won’t get a chance to catch your breath. When Jim stops at a cafe to get coffee, all hell breaks loose. A crazed old woman bursts in, and this is when we get our first disturbing image; she pours hot cooking oil on a man, resulting in a very gory special effect regarding his blistering, screaming face.

As the other customers in the cafe swiftly become infected, they begin violently attacking one another, and Jim barely escapes outside, where he sees the same violence erupting all around. When he gets home, his kindly neighbor has been infected, and attacks him with garden shears, realistically cutting off two of Jim’s fingers. In self-defense, Jim beats the neighbor’s head in with a toaster.

Meanwhile, Kat is on the subway train, where a lecherous man begins talking to her shortly before an infected guy enters the train car and begins stabbing people. This literally evolves into a fountain of blood in one case, and the floor of the car is eventually covered in blood. The lech becomes infected, and is intent on doing horrible things to Kat. In one of the scenes that made even me flinch, he pokes out a girl’s eye with the tip of his umbrella.

If you think poking someone’s eye out with an umbrella is the worst thing that can happen to poor Molly, keep watching…it gets far worse for her later on.

I am not going to go in detail about every deviant attack and murder that takes place in The Sadness (it would take far too long), but I am pretty sure there is something to offend everyone. Most disturbing is the fact that the infected take great delight in inflicting as much pain and suffering on their victims as possible, laughing maniacally (while also shedding tears), and sporting giant black pupils in their eyes. Add to that the fact that their are covered – COVERED – in red, sticky blood and gore, and they are a frightening sight to behold.

It seems the Alvin virus has evolved to the point where it attacks the limbic system, the part of the human brain involved in emotional and behavioral responses. This causes violent and sexually deviant responses to meld and amp up. There is also a theory regarding the fact that most of the infected appear to cry while committing violent attacks, but I won’t give that away.

So, is The Sadness over-the-top violent and filled with disturbing, deviant gore and violence? Absolutely. But it’s also a really good film; there is a reason it won awards at both Fantasia and Fantastic Fest. I’ll add that many (if not all) of the body parts, gore and exploding heads are practical effects, and that will win me over every time.

If you are not generally put off by extreme gore, The Sadness may still disturb you, but give it a shot. The Sadness can currently be streamed only on Shudder, where new subscribers can get a free seven day trial subscription when they sign up through the website.

Next. Popcorn, The Stylist and everything coming to Shudder in May. dark

Did you think The Sadness was too disturbing? If you haven’t watched it, do you plan to? Tell us all about it in the comments section.