If you were to try and picture what hell might actually look like, Phil Tippett’s ‘Mad God’ wouldn’t be too far off. As impressive as ‘Mad God’ is, this film is undoubtedly one of the most disturbing pieces of animation you’ll ever see. For lovers of Wallace & Gromit – this one is not for you!
First and foremost, if you’re looking for a horror movie with a terrifying plot about spooky ghosts or plentiful jump scares, this won’t be the movie for you. There’s no dialogue at all. The narrative approach Tippett takes is to simply fill his audiences’ eyes with the most freakish imagery imaginable. And he seriously commits to the bit, with a grotesque experience almost entirely consisting of stop-motion animation and a handful of live-action sequences.
‘Mad God’ feels like an allegorical retelling of Dante’s Inferno, a slow descent into the wretched subterranean realms of hell. Early on we meet a mysterious masked figure armed only with a map. Instead of the typical hero we get to know throughout this tale, this “assassin” is our proverbial tour guide through ‘Mad God’s hellish caverns and crevices. As they plunge deeper and deeper into whatever lies at the pit of this labyrinthine nightmare, horror builds.
Tippett presents us with a grim, leathery, jagged-edged world, where nothing quite sits right in the stomach. Almost every image is disgusting, but also unmistakably imaginative. One moment we’re seeing bulbous humanoid figures trudge through heaps of organic matter, the next moment we’re driven through post-apocalyptic war zones.
Is it too weird at times? Undoubtedly. But the moments that really let it down are when Tippett relies heavily on live-action instead of going all in on stop-motion filmmaking, taking you out of the experience altogether. Being a film with little to no plot, there’s a struggle to have any purposeful ‘ending’ either.
But even if it doesn’t give you a lot to work with when it comes to action and plot, it’s not the mysterious protagonist’s ‘adventures’ that are there to be enjoyed. Within 80 minutes of grunge and degradation, there’s a certain beauty to behold from Tippett’s world-building that only stop-motion animation can provide. The fact that he painstakingly crafted this over the course of 30 years, taking thousands of still images to bring this grisly, intricate world to life is astonishing.
6 / 10
‘Mad God’ is available to stream on Shudder now