31 Days of Horror: The Sadness (2021)

After the twisted, delirious showing of Titane last night, my sister was on her A game trying to deliver tonight. She selected the Taiwanese zombie film The Sadness, a Shudder original that’s available to stream on that channel. Kristi was chortling because of a review posted by a horror aficionado who said this was the type of movie that people walk out of the theaters on and that even he, a gorehound, found deeply upsetting. Definitely not a  movie I would pick out for myself, but rules are rules. So I finished my dinner before we started watching and kept my yellow notebook beside me to jot down notes in if things got too extreme. www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwZMZOS_dh0

Kat (Regina Lei) and Jim (Berant Zhu), a likable couple, wake up to what will be their last normal morning, though they don’t know it. Kat and Jim have a little tiff because of the trip they’ve planned for the next week. Kat works a 9 to 5 and has to negotiate hard to take off any of her allotted ten vacation days a year; meanwhile, Jim is freelance and has to take work when he can get it. And a big job has arrived for just that week of planned vacation, and he can’t afford to turn it down. They go about their morning doing the usual mundane things—getting dressed, rustling up breakfast. In foreign movies, I’m always so jealous of what the characters are eating for breakfast: bowls of noodles, an eggroll and pork-fried rice, or in this case, a bao dumpling with hot sauce. I should try one of these variations when I get back from California next week, just for something different.

There’s a tense, ominous atmosphere already with news about the Alvin virus spreading, and much of the public not believing in the doctors who say it’s something akin to rabies. And though this movie is violent and disturbing, there are some shots that are just heartbreakingly beautiful, which was really jarring to my emotions. One comes while Jim takes Kat to the train station on his motorbike. In slow motion, they pass a gruesome scene with police cars, an ambulance, and the aftermath of blood and violence, and Kat touches Jim’s back, just a reassurance that they are okay during this moment of chaos. However, that just marks the beginning of the chaos.

The Alvin virus infects humans and rapidly turns them into zombies unlike any I’ve ever seen. These zombies move quickly like the ones in 28 Days Later, but they do it with a rictus of a smile on their faces and talk dirty, saying the most vile things. Once I got over that shock, I realized that these zombies were also capable of sexual violence and almost seemed to seek it out.

It’s a Grand Guignol of a movie with slaughteramas that are almost beautiful with thick sprays of blood, but then the flesh creeps when the zombies lower their suspenders or pants and you realize what’s happening off-camera.

The Walking Dead, Vol. 2

I’ve always found zombies the most terrifying of monsters; I think because what a zombie represents is a loss of individuality and that’s one of my biggest fears. Then, of course, what a zombie craves is the organ most associated with individuality: Brains!

I read the first volume of The Walking Dead last year but didn’t pursue the second volume because the graphic novel reminded me so much of the zombie film 28 Days Later. I remember looking at the copyright page of that first graphic novel because there were so many similarities between the graphic novel and movie–I wanted to make sure I was getting a fresh zombie story.

Reading the second volume of The Walking Dead, I’m beginning to reevaluate my original take. There is only so much you can do with zombies in a postapocalyptic world and pacing is different in a graphic novel compared to a movie or traditional literature. I’ve noticed that with my favorite graphic novel series, it usually takes until the second volume before I really get hooked because there’s so much setup required in the initial story. I definitely felt that way about Fables.

In the second volume I finally know the characters and the general direction of the story, so as a reader/viewer I am able to notice the details more, the nuances. What’s coming through in the second volume of The Walking Dead is what a pain in the ass a zombie apocalypse would be–how the looting and general lack of food would affect a person only used to a supermarket and the currency of cash to provide the essentials, how people pair up as mates when the population is reduced so drastically, what it’s like to sleep in the same place so much that the structure starts to smell (the last one really got me).

My friend Susan, who lent me the graphic novel, griped because they had changed artists for the second volume. I didn’t really notice since so much time has elapsed between reading the first and second volumes, but I am bothered by how the children are drawn. Their proportions are off, so they look like midgets rather than kids. Sometimes the kids appear scarier than the zombies, and I’m pretty sure the artist didn’t intend this.