FANTASIA FEST 2021: ‘Mad God’ Is a Jaw-Dropping Stop-Motion Nightmare

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Mad God

Have you ever seen a film that has your jaw constantly on the floor? A film that inserts the question “How in the hell did they manage to do that?” in your head over and over again? Phil Tippett’s magnum opus, Mad God, will do all of that to you and more. 

Even if you don’t recognize the name, you have met Phil Tippett through his legendary work in animation. He was key in The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi; he created the designs of Jabba the Hutt and the AT-ATs; he brought to life the Jurassic Park dinosaurs, the Dragonslayer creatures, the bugs in Starship Troopers, and the robot sequences in Robocop. He’s a master of his craft, and Mad God is a reflection of just that: a stop-motion piece of outstanding craftsmanship that took over 30 years to make.

A capsule descends from heaven. It surpasses artillery fire to go deep into a nightmarish world. A heavily protected mask man emerges—a steampunk explorer of sorts—to navigate a grotesque landscape inhabited by masturbating dolls, gruesome experiments, and amorphous creatures. He passes giant figures defecating over the mouth of a giant indescribable mutation who watches him with his blood-soaked eye.

As the explorer delves deeper into this hell, you start to wonder, is he the Mad God? Who is it? The answer relies on the opening of the film, which shows a quote from Leviticus stressing the cruelty of a God who, as scenes go by, has clearly forgotten all about his people, leaving them rotting in their human filth. 

The film takes us to many horror-filled worlds. There are industrial landscapes populated by disposable faceless workers, a Lewis Carroll psychedelic field in which disturbing insects play poker, a city in ruins, among other wretched locations. Through the journey, we encounter Kubrick-Esque monoliths, monsters made of flesh and metal, inhumane doctors, breathtaking black plague-inspired creatures, and mutant battles. There’s no good and evil, just cruelty and chaos explored through themes of exploitation, destruction, and frenzied capitalism.

The movie is an insane mesh of styles, tones, inspirations, and unique ideas brought to life with meticulous detail. Even if you are not on board with its eccentric storytelling, there’s always something to admire. The creatures are the product of astonishing levels of imagination, and the animation is filled with life and emotion; there’s disgust, fear, and despair. Worst case scenario, you will feel admiration for this sensorial universe. As a mad God himself, Tippett forces you to admire his deranged creations, maybe even feel satisfaction for the audiovisual anarchy on display.

There’s no dialogue in Mad God, only some babbling sounds and eyes, many eyes carefully observing and emoting. The sound design is key in creation immersion—steps, dissection, guns, explosions, dismemberments, dragging, ticking, and crushing. It’s a cornucopia of sound that is perfectly used to populate this horror. Dan Wool’s wonderful score provides just the extra touch of emotion.

Mad God is a nightmare of gore, machinery, and violence that exploits human fears. It’s a beautifully deranged artistic achievement of epic proportion and an uncompromising vision brought to life with mind-bending imagination and some of the best animation you will ever see. 

Mad God had its North American premiere at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Mad God
  • 9.5/10
    Rating - 9.5/10
9.5/10

TL;DR

Mad God is a nightmare of gore, machinery, and violence that exploits human fears. It’s a beautifully deranged artistic achievement of epic proportion and an uncompromising vision brought to life with mind-bending imagination and some of the best animation you will ever see.