A nightmarish labour of stop-motion love, Mad God is a film that took 30 years to bring to the screen. Its accomplishments are admirable if covered in viscera, making this voyage into dream logic, a mostly plot-free descent into demented vistas an occasional test of patience. Following a Tower Of Babel destruction and a portentous quotation from Leviticus at its opening, the film then follows a diving bell, peopled by a gasmask-wearing assassin armed with a suitcase bomb and a crumbling/skin map.
With nods to Milton, Dante and Hieronymous Bosch, the assassin travels through levels of hellish imagery: defecating titans, mouths issuing orders in baby babble, hideous mutations all competing for the most horrid, haunting images to be seared on your mind. The stop-motion blends with live action at points, with cult film director Alex Cox (Repo Man, Sid & Nancy) cropping up as a Nosferatu-fingered boss, and some Pythonesque 2D animation is also utilized.
It’s more an experience than a narrative-driven piece, although the futility of existence, the circular nature of time and the capability for the powerful to exploit the weak are all touched upon. The animation, as you’d expect from Tippett – the man behind creature design, puppetry and visual effects in everything from Star Wars to Robocop to The Twilight Saga – is astonishing: tipping its hat to Ray Harryhausen’s mastery of the technique but with a niche, unashamedly cult appeal.
Starting back in the late 1980s, while Phil Tippett was working on Robocop 2, Mad God was shelved when the director saw how CGI was replacing more traditional stop-motion; after working on Jurassic Park himself, he thought this art form may be dying. In the mid-2000s, however, a Kickstarter campaign helped bring this weird, unsettling film to completion.
The artistry is undeniable but this is a tough, often stomach-churning watch – filled with gruesome horror, lovingly and painstakingly realized. You haven’t seen anything like Mad God and may not want to again.
Dir: Phil Tippett (15, 73 mins)
Mad God streams on Shudder from Thurs 16 June
words KEIRON SELF
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