Still from Phil Tippet's Mad God

Film Review: Mad God

Film Reviews

Mad God
Director: Phil Tippett

Tippett Studio
In Theaters and Streaming on Shudder: 06.16

Very rarely does a film come along that is so heavily infused with blood, sweat and tears that it becomes a living, breathing entity outside of its creator’s grasp. Mad God, a passion project from writer and director Phil Tippett, is one such film. Tippet is the VFX legend behind classics such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and the Twilight Saga. This latest outing took decades of work but gives the impression of being beyond time.

Mad God begins with an Old Testament excerpt, after which we follow a lone assassin wandering through a dystopian landscape, each level more hellish than the last. The world the assassin travels reflect the darkest of human cycles. Our character must pass through fields of endless wars, cities overrun by plagues, macabre theaters built to watch the suffering of others and many other grotesque set pieces that I will not mention here, so as to preserve the experience for those strangers still intrigued.

The film is painstakingly animated using traditional stop-motion techniques, with a sparse plot propelled by the hideously fascinating imagery that Tippett and his team have crafted. The horrors of this world will grip and keep you on the edge of your seat, scared and confused. The magic of this particular brand of horror is not knowing what will happen next—or why. 

Let me be very clear—this film is not for the faint of heart. Mad God is the kind of deranged odyssey only stop-motion could truly render; Tim Burton wishes that his films could reach the sick abyss that Mad God manages. With the unfolding of each scene, you might wonder why you subjected yourself to this madness, but you will not be able to turn away, gripped by the freakish fantasies that Tippett lays before you. These reflections necessitate a deep introspection, forcing you to confront the dark reality of your own being. 

I’m usually not one for horror, and on paper, this film is not my thing. Every moment had me writhing in my own skin. But, in all of its revolting imagery, I couldn’t help but perceive the beauty and the artistry fueling it all. Each figure and each landscape were lovingly crafted. I was blown away by the world that Tippett was able to create on-screen.

The experience is a true testament to the power of creation. 30 years in the making, Mad God was almost scrapped in lieu of other projects. It wasn’t until the team at Tippett Studio stumbled upon the heaps of condemned puppets that they were able to complete the project. The passion of these talented artists—and over $40,000 from the Kickstarter community—finally brought this collective nightmare into being.

Die-hard fans of horror and stop motion must see this film. Mad God is a striking glimpse at a depraved, horrifying, human world—the effects of filmic dream, an illumination of our own terrifying status as mere mortals in a macabre act. The film manages to surpass classics such as the Twilight Saga and will rightly be remembered as Tippett’s magnum opus; a raw look into the terrifying mind of the mad god himself. –Morgan Keller

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