I have seen the face of madness, and his name is Phil Tippett…
…Tippet, visual effects extraordinaire behind such films as RoboCop and Starship Troopers, premiered his film Mad God recently at Fantastic Fest, and, I don’t want to exaggerate here, but films like this don’t come around very often.
Mad God is a masterpiece.
Set in an expansive labyrinth in which each new turn is populated by creatures more horrific than the last, Mad God is a mostly stop-motion film that follows a character known only as “The Assassin” as they explore this terrifying world and struggle to survive.
Meanwhile, the audience is tasked with trying not to lose their damn mind at how extraordinary this film is, a task which is impossible.
A film like Mad God isn’t about the story. It’s about the experience. And you won’t experience anything else like Mad God this year. What Tippett has done is create something akin to one of those soothing sounds compilations that some of us use to ease into dreamy wonderlands. Well, Mad God is a dreamy wonderland, albeit a nightmarish one, but no matter how horrific it gets, watching it provides the same sort of comfort as listening to rain in bed. It’s the perfect vehicle for sitting back, maybe indulging in one of your favorite movie enhancing products, and then letting it rocket you off to a place of pure, cinematic wonder.
First off, Tippett and his entire team are firing on all cylinders. Mad God reaches into the deepest, darkest depths of the imagination and reveals a wealth of jaw-dropping visuals that will melt your brain. The film opens on the Assassin descending into the hell of this world in a diving bell and I swear I could’ve watched this sequence for at least another hour. Accompanied by Dan Wool’s mystifying score, there is something so comforting about watching the Assassin pass through a range of eerily beautiful landscapes. These different parts of the maze range from steampunk nightmares to macabre factories, to the hospital from hell, a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and so much more.
Rather than present a traditional narrative, Mad God is a dialogue-less film in which our protagonist and the audience are subjected to mind-blowing nightmare after nightmare. Mad God taps into just about every universal fear possible. There’s a little something here to unnerve all of you. The film features creatures of all shapes, sizes and bodily functions. It has giant monsters with bulging eyeballs that remind of Resident Evil mega bosses; Steampunk spiders; Maggots that scream like babies (I hate it). And for those that aren’t easily creeped, Tippett goes for the gross out, presenting, ugh, giants that shit diarrhea into a funnel for said eyeball monster.
Maybe now is a good time to mention Mad God isn’t for everyone.
A commentary on the tragedy of war and the ruthlessness of life, in which some creatures are born only to immediately serve and then die—as happens often in Mad God—Tippett doesn’t just cross the line, he sets it on fire and waves it around his head like a maniacal cowboy. Tabboo is the name of the game with much of the horror in Mad God, and it certainly isn’t for anyone looking for something thematically softer. Tippett wants you to be uncomfortable. He wants you to squirm the way some of his monstrosities squirm. And I promise you, at some point, you will. This film won’t creep under your skin, it will rip it right off.
Mad God has such sights to show you.
Think of Mad God like something akin to Pink Floyd: The Wall, but without the musical numbers. Though it generally follows the same character, Mad God is a series of macabre vignettes that no matter how ugly they get, hide a poetic truth under their gruesome mask. Despite all of the death and chaos running rampant through the film, there is an unfathomable beauty to Tippett and his crew’s creations. The craftsmanship in Mad God is out of this world, inspiring feelings of awe near the level of seeing Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs on screen for the first time. No matter what you end up thinking of the horrors themselves, the passion that went into creating them bleeds off the screen and fills your own veins with a creative fire.
Mad God is quite simply filmmaking at its finest, with Phill Tippett the mad god at the helm.
But like I said, it won’t be for all of you. Maybe it’s too gross. Maybe it’s too disturbing. Maybe you can’t stand that there’s not an ounce of dialogue and that to say it’s confusing doesn’t begin to describe the insanity. It doesn’t have to make sense though. Films like this are a feeling. That sense that you’ve just been taken on a personal journey by the creator unlike anything you’ve seen before. Mad God is a tour through the mind of Phil Tippett, and the photo ops are extraordinary.
While watching Mad God, you will frequently ask yourself, “what in the actual fuck?” I’m still not even sure what I just watched, either. But I know one thing. Tippett has unleashed something that is going to amaze some and cause others to avoid it like the plague.
This one’s destined to become a cult classic.
By Matt Konopka