Starring: Alex Cox, Niketa Roman, Satish Ratakonda, Harper Taylor, and Brynn Taylor
Written & Directed by: Phil Tippett
Special Effects master Phil Tippett took 30 years to complete Mad God. A new Shudder Exclusive, premiering on the streaming service on June 16th. Throughout weekends and in-between feature work, Tippett and his team toiled and planned, building whole worlds and ecosystems from the gristle of nightmares. Likely inspired by the dark works of artists like Hieronymus Bosch and H.R. Geiger.
After having experienced it, I can confidently say it was well worth the wait.
Filmed with an alchemistic mixture of stop-motion animation, live-action, and high-speed photography, Mad God is a wholly singular work. One that mixes high fantasy, science-fiction, and horror into a richly designed and photographed cosmic gumbo. Chock full to bursting with images and sequences that will stay with you long afterward.
Mad God is the story of The Assassin, a wanderer who has descended in a homemade diving bell from the world above. But the world below has nothing to offer but decay and squalor as we follow The Assassin on his mission. Passing through ruined streets, nightmarish factories, and rotting war zones populated with horridly fascinating creatures. Some of which are literally made of shit and hair.
Just to state now, Mad God is NOT for the faint of heart.
All manner of squishy, truly off-putting viscera, blood, and bodily fluids are on display here. In addition, most of the film’s sequences seem ripped from the subconscious. Operating on dream logic as The Assassin travels further and deeper.
Naturally, this makes for all sorts of skin-crawling moments and goopiness. Not to mention the sheer existential terror of seeing a recognizable human world underneath all the automated cruelty and casual, near-constant death.
That said however, there is still quite a lot of beauty to be found in Mad God. The amount of technical skill and old-school animation processes displayed here are overwhelmingly cool. This coupled with Tippett and company’s consistently striking designs for the world and creatures ultimately outweighs the film’s gross factor. A feeling further bolstered by the hauntingly catchy score by Dan Wool.
Granted too, Mad God is thin, plot-wise. Mainly due to lack of exposition. The Assassin never speaks and naturally, none of the rest of the creatures he encounters do either. Undoubtedly this will turn off certain audiences and likely frustrate others. Despite the treasure trove of visual storytelling and context clues as to the state of the worlds The Assassin encounters through his travels.
And yet, Mad God still stands triumphantly. Providing sights, sounds, and moods unlike any other “adult animation” feature. To say anything else would be to spoil Mad God’s dark gifts (watch out for the Overseer!), but trust me when I say, Mad God one of a kind. In every way, shape, and form.
Phil Tippett’s Mad God premieres and will stream exclusively on Shudder June 16th.