Director: Phil Tippett
Screenplay: Phil Tippett
Starring: Alex Cox
Country: USA
Running Time: 84 min
Year: 2022
BBFC Certificate: 18

In a dystopian hellscape, a nameless masked figure journeys through an onslaught of nightmares, attempting to reach some unknown goal that you really hope is worthwhile.

Phil Tippett is a visual effects artist I’ve been keenly aware of ever since he became a meme for improperly supervising the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, and frankly I’m ashamed I hadn’t been following him and his work for longer. His career is legendary, having been integrally involved in the creature effects for the likes of the rancor in Star Wars, ED-209 in RoboCop, the ants in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and various beasts in Evolution, Starship Troopers, Indiana Jones – the list of films from my formative years goes on and on. As behind the scenes documentaries on this film attest, he was a stop-motion artist who, when it was revealed that some of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park would be created visually, essentially hung up his skeleton-dusting brush, aware that his way of life had just become extinct. However, back home, when he wasn’t working, he kept tinkering with this personal project, and gradually more and more people joined him to help out, and some thirty years after it began, Mad God finally saw the light of day, and I’m thrilled that it has.

This was not a pleasant film viewing experience. It did not result in a satisfied smile and an exclamation of “Well, that was fun!”. Watching Mad God feels like a test; like a challenge of endurance and sanity. We follow a protagonist whom we know nothing about, be it their name, source, or destination, other than they have descended from somewhere above and appear to be heading down no matter what atrocities scamper across their path. And these things that scamper, or wail, or lurk, they often defy description or logic, plucked from Tippett’s mind and presented on screen with great care and detail – often, in fact, far more than would have been requested.

A knife-wielding potato-faced toothy monstrosity hacks away at a bandaged pipe-dweller. A metallic doll slumped in a corner makes mastrubation motions, looking at two rat creatures in a frenzy in their battery cages, sadly beckons whilst a crying ape-being is tied to a hospital bed behind a heavy, creaking door. A row of giant humanoids with bagged heads and flashing electric wiring writhe painfully as pinkish fluid gushes incessantly from them, funnelled into the gaping maw of some… thing making accordion sounds with exposed, expanding balloon udders. These images, and many, many more, will remain with me for a long time. A long, long time.

Yet despite the visions that greet me every time I shut my eyes, etched as they now are upon my very soul, I can’t help but recommend this film, and I have done so to several people already. It’s definitely not for everyone – there’s good reason why I waited to watch this on a weekend my partner was not around, for she would have despised every inch of this – but if you appreciate the likes of Cronenberg, Lynch or Carpenter’s darker side, and especially if the stop-motion film-making technique appeals to you, then this is a must watch. The sheer volume of time and effort that has gone into crafting every second on screen made me feel guilty every time I glanced down to write a note, leading to this review being assembled from some quite unintelligible chicken scratch, but at least I saw another second of the lint people being smooshed on a conveyor belt!

Narratively Mad God is ultimately unsatisfying, but for me this was more about the spectacle and creativity on display than a concise story. It’s not all stop motion in there either, other media are well implemented, including some live action sequences integrated throughout, occasionally with frames removed to replicate the juddering stop motion aesthetic, which only makes what we’re witnissing more disturbing, so full marks all round! Before signing up for reviewing this I was warned that the film is “relentlessly bleak” (to which I responded that I could easily handle that, as I’ve been working in an office for 12 years), and I would say that the description is very accurate. Do not enter into this film lightly, for it will make every attempt to rip apart your mind and will make no headway at piecing it back together again, but if that sounds like a fun afternoon for you then I’d consider this a strong recommendation.

Mad God is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Acorn Media. The excellent special features include two commentaries (one with the cast & crew, the other with Phil Tippett and Guillermo del Toro), a separate interview with Tippett and various making of documentaries, all of which are excellent and only make the film more impressive in hindsight.

Mad God
4.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.