Mad God was initially reviewed at Fantasia Film Festival in 2021 and is streaming now on Shudder.
It’s a rare honour to spend an hour and a half in the presence of a stop-motion genius like Phil Tippett; after all, this is the man who helped bring us the exquisite stop-motion work of Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Willow and Indiana Jones during his award-winning career. But nothing can prepare you for Tippett’s labour of love Mad God, a film over thirty years in the making. Mad God is a raw, blood-soaked masterpiece that defies simple explanation. Its visual and auditory complexity is coupled with a cutting dissection of humanity’s ability to create a hell on earth. The dialogue-free journey joyously subverts pop culture imagery while creating a stunning, dark, haunting underworld of human horrors. Tippett’s film eats away at your sense of reality as you enter the hellish gates of Mad God’s world, an enchanting yet petrifying mix of Pier Paolo Passolini, George Orwell and Dante Alighieri’s darkest visions of human behaviour and society.
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Tippett’s film aptly opens with a fire and brimstone quote from Leviticus as a diving bell slowly descends from the sky into a never-ending underworld of human creation. As the bell finds solid ground, a pilot emerges from the capsule into what can only be described as a vision of hell. This is a world of violence, torture, hate and war, where industry steamrolls its workers, slavery is the norm, and survival sits on a knife edge. But, as our gas-masked miner works his way through a maze of blood, death, slavery and greed, Tippett’s story twists and turns as he explores themes of progress, hate, religion and social division through a range of sinister stop-motion characters.
Split into four chapters, Mad God charts a course through industrial and financial greed, religious and political corruption, power and war. The result could be described as a stop-motion interpretation of Dante’s Inferno; however, unlike the 14th Century poem, Tippett’s hellish maze is not rooted in simple religious concepts of sin. Instead, Tippett’s Mad God reflects the horrors of human behaviour. Here the universe attempts to regulate where life starts and ends, knowing that all intelligent life resorts to greed, war and violence in the end.
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Mad God was a lifelong project and obsession for Tippett, and its dark and haunting themes leave a mark on every viewer. It is a horror masterpiece that defies simple explanations from a man who helped shape modern cinema. Mad God is a complex, profound and disturbing exploration of humanity, creation and destruction that demonstrates the sheer power of stop-motion in our modern world of CGI.