In pre-CGI Hollywood, if you wanted fantastical creatures or robots, Phil Tippett was the man you’d go to. He created the AT-AT Walker for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and, my personal favourite, ED-209 in Robocop. And if that wasn’t enough, he even inspired the “Damn it Phil! You had one job!!” meme.
Mad God is Tippett’s passion project; it’s been in the works for 30 plus years as an entirely independent project whilst he’s been involved in more mainstream work.
It’s safe to say that Mad God is not a mainstream work. It has no dialogue and no strict narrative. The film follows The Assassin, a gas-masked soldier who travels underground, deep into the film’s industrial hellscape, full of strange monsters and machinery.
Whilst the film mostly follows The Assassin, we occasionally shift focus to other strange characters. It’s primarily a stop motion film, though there are moments of live action (including an appearance from director Alex Cox!) and CGI here and there.
The film’s sets and characters are stunning. Add on top of that an excellent sound design, and you truly feel as if you’ve been dropped into a most bizarre world. As an unfiltered peek into someone’s Id, it’s incredible.
In recent interviews, Tippett has said the film was a way of dealing with his depression. And this comes through in the film’s relentlessly nihilistic tone. In one scene, strange humanoid creatures are made only to be placed on a production line where many will be killed. Are their creators the titular Mad God? Or is it the puppet master himself, Tippett?
In another enthralling scene, giant people are shocked in electric chairs, their waste being fed to another creature below. Which brings me to my next point: This film is – and I can only express this in these terms – the ickiest, most gross film I’ve seen since Flying Lotus’ Kuso. There is a tangible sliminess to most textures. The style is comparable to H.R Giger, The Quay Brothers and the stop-motion videos of Tool, while a visual motif of landscapes littered with skulls harks back to the Terminator franchise.
This film will not be for everyone; some will find it inaccessible due to its lack of narrative. However, I was thrilled by it. A truly singular experience!