Those who appreciate animation as an art form will be absolutely mesmerized by “Mad God,” a nightmarish, surreal stop-motion film from legendary visual effects icon Phil Tippet. Tippet wrote and directed this experimental cinematic exercise (it took him over 30 years to complete), wholly capturing his own unique, dark, and disturbing vision.
In a land inhabited by tortured souls, The Assassin (Hans Brekke) makes his way through the darkest areas of the subconscious mind. He traverses decrepit cities and encounters grotesque monsters, mad scientists, hideous freaks, and steampunk soldiers of war. You’ll be transported to another world that’s filled with violent, disturbing images, while the script takes a backseat to the eye-popping, visionary creativity.
This film is all about the craft and the artistry of cinema. The filmmaking team developed each set and puppet by hand, combining live action with stop-motion miniatures. The end result is a finished product where the technical aspects reach the highest level. This is an astounding achievement in animated filmmaking, and it’s impossible not to appreciate the expert execution.
The film is mostly silent, with nauseating sound effects and plenty of blood and gore. Just because the violence is at the hands of puppets rather than human actors makes it no less horrifying. This is a film for adults only.
This is the type of dark and challenging film that’s best served in small bites, as sitting down to watch it straight through began to wear me out pretty quickly. The plot is so loose and fluid that it’s easy to consume in this way, and I’d actually recommend that you not tackle it all at once. I wish there was a bit more substance over style, but the mastery of Tippet’s work is the true star.
“Mad God” is delightfully primitive and terrifying fantasy-horror, and it’s a stunning achievement in stop-motion animation. It is unlike anything I have ever seen, and expertly captures Tippet’s flair for the macabre.