Oscar winning stop-motion animator Phil Tippett (Jurassic Park, Star Wars) has spent 30 years of his life working on a passion project. Something that is uncompromised, wholly original, and 100% his own voice. Due to the world shutting down over the last few years, he was able to hone in and put the final pieces down for his masterpiece, ‘Mad God’. He premiered it just last year at a film festival, and Shudder quickly bought up the rights to distribute it.
In ‘Mad God’, an assassin descends into a Hellish landscape and encounters monsters, madmen, and mayhem. It’s a movie with very little interest in traditional storytelling or plot development. What begins with a large excerpt of God threatening to punish evildoers via The Book of Leviticus, quickly just becomes an amazing animation spectacle full of grotesque imagery and memorable but undeveloped characters. Visually, it reminds me of the ‘Little Nightmares’ video game series. We have people being viscerally butchered, large oddly-shaped men in an infinite loop of eating and shitting, creatures that have unidentifiable yet familiar features, and so much more.
Besides the introductory text, you get nothing as far as storytelling is concerned. There is no dialogue, no names, no real explanation for a single thing you see… but if you are able to overlook this bold approach to a story, you are handsomely rewarded with macabre images that need to be seen to be understood. It’s able to be interpreted either directly through the heart of its crafts and get lost in what is essentially something like ‘Rob Zombie’s Nightmare Before Christmas’… or you can find layers upon layers of subtext regarding topics such as the human condition, the Afterlife, the worth of life itself, etc. Monsters made of clay and other materials are assembled with human teeth, real hair, real lighting… and some very clever camera tricks to really pull off one of the most amazing visual stories I’ve ever seen in this realm. It tickles the imagination G-Spot with a very rough, silly vision that acts like another Rorschach Test.
Much like ‘Men’, which I reviewed just about a month ago, this is a movie where you walk away with what you bring into it. Imagine looking into a mirror that goes directly into the part of your brain that struggles with sur-reality and association, and not being able to ask it a single question.
Prepare yourself for a series of unflattering, disturbing, fantastical creatures and breathtaking set designs as you literally accompany a masked person on their travels through an unnamed Hell. To quote my wife, this movie is “fucking nauseating, and fascinating”.
It’s absolutely insane.
My advice? Go in completely unassuming or not expecting a tale that makes literal sense on a first watch, and just go in for the unbelievable special effects by a man who has operated in some of the biggest, most nostalgic films for contemporary audiences. Let the imagination run wild in this large, dark sandbox filled with broken glass, hungry centipedes, and dog poop. Phil Tippet is a mad man, and in quite a literal sense, he is the Mad God.
“Mad God” is currently streaming on Shudder.
‘Til Next Time,
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