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Ultra HD : Highly Recommended
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Release Date: July 30th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 2021

The Sadness - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

4K UHD Review By: Matthew Hartman
Shudder and OCN Distribution team up to unleash Rob Jabbaz’s gnarly and terrifying
The Sadness, one of the most graphic and disturbing zombie films of the modern horror era. A product of the pandemic and true to Zombie form, it has a sharp eye for social commentary while offering gallons of gore and plenty of unrelenting horror. With an excellent HDR10 transfer, perfect audio, and a rabid hoard of extra features, it’s easy to call Highly Recommended

Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Region Free 4K UHD / Region A Blu-ray
Video Resolution/Codec:
2160p/HEVC / H.265
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
Mandarin Chinese, Hokkien DTS-HD MA 5.1
Release Date:
July 30th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


Like a real virus, the Zombie has gone through quite the cinematic evolution. From the earliest days of Dr. Caligari’s deadly somnambulant to George Romero’s undead nightmares to Danny Boyle’s living infected, Zombies have changed with the times. Sometimes they lumber at a snail’s pace. Sometimes they’re going head-to-head with Usain Bolt as the fastest biped on the planet.

Regardless of speed and heartbeat status, Zombie films live or die because of the filmmakers who bring them to life. For as many great Zombie films out there, there are dozens of forgettable carcasses of failed attempts littering bargain bins and cluttering up streamers. But thanks to Rob Jabbaz, we not only have a timely post-pandemic Zombie film to digest, we have one that is viscerally horrifying with 2002’s The Sadness!

Like many Zombie films before, our film starts out on a measure of peaceful tranquility. For Jim and Kat, daily life in Taipae was like any other. They had a small fight about her vacation time and his work schedule. Jim drove Kat to work and stopped off for a snack. All the while the pair were oblivious to the mounting threat around them. A year after a flu-like virus called Alvin first arrived in Taiwan, officials continue to butt heads about how to stop the spread. But when the virus suddenly mutates, Jim and Kat will have to fight for their lives as the infected become a hoard of conscious and uninhibited murderers, rapists, and cannibals. 

To say The Sadness is an uncomfortable film is a bit of an understatement! Since the film didn’t get a release in theaters anywhere near me, I risked it all and imported a 4K copy sight unseen. All I needed to sell me on the film was director Rob Jabbaz was initially inspired to conceive the story by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows’ grotesque zombie comic series Crossed. Which if any of you fellow readers out there know, isn’t exactly a subtle comic! Since American studios weren’t likely to make that one into a film, I knew I had to see what this film was all about. 

Yes, it’s loaded with any number of sickeningly depraved acts of unrestrained violence. Yes, The Sadness is about as bleak as it can get. But it’s also a very smart film. Like Romero before him, Jabbaz cleverly peppers the film with a smart sense of social commentary without knocking you over the head with a message. One of the most terrifying early scenes of the film is when Kat is on her train to work and an infected person starts stabbing fellow passengers at random. Once the individual is subdued, there’s a beautifully captured (albeit brief) moment where the camera pans around the train and we see a quick catalog of the victims, the people who did something about it, and the stark comparison to the people who stood by with their phones out recording it and did nothing to help. Then the mayhem starts all over again! 

The Sadness is a breathless endeavor at barely 100 minutes long with credits. Smartly it gives just enough time to establish what a normal day in Jim and Kat's lives looks like before everything goes to hell. And while it’s a parade of depraved acts splayed out on screen, if you look hard enough it does manage to have an incredibly subtle sense of humor. Either that or I was so shocked by the scenes on screen I had nothing left but laughter to respond. 

Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray 
The Sadness
infects its first North American disc release with a deluxe 2-Disc 4K UHD Blu-ray from Shudder and OCN Distribution. The 4K is pressed on a BD-66 disc with a Region A BD-50 serving up the 1080p version of the film and the bulk of the bonus features. If you were quick enough, Vinegar Syndrome had a Limited Edition slipcover for the Partner Label Sale, but that sold out almost immediately. The discs are housed in a standard two-disc black case, each disc gets its own tray without stacking. Also included is a 32-page booklet featuring a new essay from critic Brandon Streussing along with a gore guide and storyboards. Each disc loads to an animated main menu with traditional navigation options.

Video Review


The Sadness arrives on Blu-ray stateside with an often stunning 2160p HDR10 transfer. Back in 2022, I imported the Capelight 4K Mediabook (at the time it was the only edition available) and I was very impressed with that one. Looking at the two side-by-side (or flipping disc-over-disc, if you will), they’re neck and neck similar. I don’t have a large-screen HDR10+ setup, so I can’t really speak to that aspect of the Capelight disc, only the base HDR10. This new disc’s transfer is not quite identical, but the differences are incredibly slight. Most folks probably wouldn’t even notice the differences they’re barely perceptible. While a slightly smaller file size, this Shudder edition of The Sadness maintains a robust bitrate. Not bit-for-bit the same, it comes in lower than Capelight's, but the bitrate often peaks over 100mbps while holding steady averages in the mid-80 and 90mbps range.

Flipping between the discs, I didn’t notice any notable clarity discrepancies. The image for this release maintains sharp, crystal-clear details. Facial features, the scenery around Taipei, and of course, the copious amounts of gore makeup are all on display. The imagery is already disturbing conceptually but to see it in such clarity is often shocking - and maybe even a little nauseating! But it’s crystal clear, so that’s important. 

HDR10 brings out the colors beautifully letting primaries have their time to shine, but yellows and reds are the key colors of the day. Whenever action moves outdoors, the colors favor warmer yellow tones while indoor scenes skew cooler with more cool blue tones. Regardless of location, blood is a sickening crimson red (mixed in with all the other wonderful colors the body can produce). Flipping between discs, I began to feel that this disc's transfer might come in a stop or so darker than the Capelight disc. But since I haven’t been able to rip this disc to do a proper side-by-side, I can’t really confirm that. If it’s really there, it’s so slight most folks would barely notice. Black levels are terrifically deep and inky, the eyes of the infected are creepy black voids with these startling red rings around the irises. If you can stomach it, it’s a glorious transfer.

For those grabbing this for the 1080p, worry not, it too is a terrific transfer. While the 4K with HDR is the obvious winner, this transfer still holds its own. Details are sharp and clear, albeit not as nuanced as the 2160p, but still very impressive. Colors are sharp and focus on key primaries while maintaining the yellow tones for outdoor scenes. Black levels weren’t as inky black as desired but still strong enough to maintain the creepy atmosphere and evoke a sense of depth to the image without issue there. 

Audio Review


Shudder packs this release of The Sadness with a terrific Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix. Back to doing the disc flippies, this sounds to be the exact same track Capelight Germany used for their 4K disc two years ago - and that’s perfectly okay. Some may lament the lack of an Atmos track but it’s not necessary here. This is a fully immersive audio mix that perfectly balances the quiet moments with the big loud intense sequences with smart uses of the surrounds. Suppose we’re not in the middle of a hoard of infected people on a train ripping each other apart. In that case, there’s a creepy voice broadcasting horrible stuff over a loudspeaker and the echo fills the soundscape beautifully. Dialog is clean and clear throughout without issue. The English subtitles are clear and read well, comparing releases again, I didn’t see any translation differences between this disc from Shudder and Capelight’s disc.

Special Features


On the bonus features, Shudder stacks this disc with an incredible array of extra content to devour. At the top of the pack is three excellent audio commentaries. Rob Jabbaz goes in for two of these with different contributors and they’re each a wealth of information about the film. Composes Tzachar have their takes on how a scene places out sonically with music cues building while medical advisor Shu brings a more gore-focused interest to the discussion. The Simon Abrams commentary is also a nice addition bringing a lot of interesting insights and observations without sounding too dry or solitary. Next of the heavy list is a great interview with Rob Jabbaz, it’s a Skype interview but plenty comes out of the discussion. Samm Deighan’s video essay is a nice addition and I especially liked the brief focused behind-the-scenes featurettes. I wish we’d gotten more of that content, especially for the gore application and development. Overall this is a terrific set of extras to rip through when the show is over. This is one area that undisputably blows over the Capelight set. 

4K UHD Disc 

  • Audio Commentary featuring Director Rob Jabbaz and Composers Tzechar
  • Audio Commentary featuring Director Rob Jabbaz with medical advisor Shu
  • Audio Commentary featuring film critic Simon Abrams

Blu-ray Disc

  • Audio Commentary featuring Director Rob Jabbaz and Composers Tzechar
  • Audio Commentary featuring Director Rob Jabbaz with medical advisor Shu
  • Audio Commentary featuring film critic Simon Abrams
  • The New Wave of Taiwanese Horror: Video Essay by Samm Deighan (HD 15:03)
  • Interview with Director Rob Jabbaz (HD 38:29)
  • Color Grading Comparison with Colorist Paul Hanrahan (HD 11:41)
  • Fantasia Festival Award Presentation (HD 7:36)
  • Behind the Scenes Featurettes: 
    • Special Effects (HD 1:10)
    • The Businessman (HD 3:23)
    • The Director (HD 3:17)
    • Art Director (HD 1:03)
    • The Production (HD 5:28)
  • Rob Habbaz Short Films:
    • Clearwater (HD 6:20)
    • Fiendish Funnies (HD 3:13)

If the title isn’t enough of a clue, The Sadness isn’t a happy-go-lucky comedic romp. Timely in its production, it’s the perfect post-pandemic Zombie film to rip the guts out of an audience and shock them into silence. The violence may become so extreme it accidentally becomes comical, but others may be so repulsed they fail to make it to the end. I’m a Zombie junky and any filmmaker even tangentially inspired by a comic book like Crossed commands gets my attention. Rather than doing the simple rinse, wash, repeat of so many Zombie films, Rob Jabbaz cooks up a smart film with clever social commentary while delivering a slick slab of visual viscera. The disc looks and sounds fantastic and is packed with excellent bonus features. As someone who imported this already, both releases are amazing, so I’ll be keeping both, as this 4K of The Sadness is a stacked release worthy of shelf space in your collection. Highly Recommended

Order Your Copy of The Sadness on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray