More than 30 years in the making, Phil Tippett’s surreal, arthouse dystopia Mad God is finally available on Shudder, and it’s every bit as bizarre and compelling as promised!
Long Time Coming
Special effects legend Phil Tippett (original Star Wars Trilogy, Robocop series, Jurassic Park, Twilight franchise) first began production of his stop-motion experimental film back in 1987. It was largely a side project which he worked on during weekends and other off times. However, in 1993 he abandoned it altogether, fearing that advances in CGI as seen in Jurassic Park meant the death of stop-motion.
By the mid-2000’s, he was encouraged to pick it up again and via several crowdfunding campaigns, production on Mad God resumed. With the help of volunteers and film students looking to get experience, this very DIY film grew into a feature length exploration into the what practical stop-motion can really do!
“And I will lay waste the land…”
Narrative wise, Mad God definitely leans surreal and symbolic. Our unnamed protagonist is a dark figure who navigates a world of chaos and terror. It appears to be some post-apocalyptic wasteland that may or may not still be an active warzone. He treks from piles of dead bodies to some demented surgery in which a deformed baby is born screaming into this harsh world.
He then ends up in some mad scientist’s lab, where we get glimpses of what happened to the world before and what lay in store for the future of this one. All of this is done without a single line of dialogue. The incredibly detailed visuals and sound effects tell the story all on their own.
Style and Substance Intertwined
At its core, Mad God does adhere to a narrative, albeit not a very conventional one. It’s definitely a marvel of practical stop-motion effects, but in doing so it creates a mood more so than anything else.
Similar to the surreal European horror films of the 70s and 80s, the focus was less on story and more on creating an atmosphere. It allows 10 different people to watch the film and take away 10 very different themes and ideas. A lot of films will explicitly infuse their themes into the story itself, to the point that it feels like being preached to.
But Mad God dazzles us with its bizarre existence, allowing us to make our own interpretations. The opening quote from Leviticus tells us this is a broken world, but it’s up to us to determine how or why. Some may see it as a cautionary tale against greed and self-interest, some may see it as a clash between the natural and industrial. Or perhaps it’s even the titular mad god’s wrath against a world that dared to disobey. Regardless of intent, once the film is released, it belongs to the audience in this way.
If you’re looking for something more traditionally narrative, you probably won’t get into this one. But if you’d be captivated by a dystopian, surreal, stop-motion silent opera, then Mad God is a movie for you!
What did you think of Mad God? Let us know in the comments!