There are some films so odd they defy explanation. Many movies seek to throw you off their scent. Others find themselves incoherent enough that you’ll need an explainer. However, director and special effects artist Phil Tippett refuses to let his latest film be defined in this light. Instead, he takes the obscenity and chaos to levels few have dared. Tippett’s film, Mad God represents the most unique vision of the world on screen since Looney Porn, or Bad Luck Banging upset audiences in 2021. That film had a coherent plot with a multi-act structure. Tippett’s film refuses to be boxed in by small things like plot or story. Instead, he embraces a vignette structure to tell small, otherworldly tales of disorder.
Mad God features a few plots that seemingly collide and diverge over the runtime. Provided a mission to detonate a bomb behind enemy lines, an Assassin drives into a dark world. As they travel, otherworldly horrors reveal themselves. A doctor rips a baby out of a human and a nurse hands the child to a wraith-like creature. Mutants fight each other in the streets. Normal humans are burned and destroyed by the world around them. No one is safe.
For Tippett, Mad God represented more than thirty years of effort. The famed special effects artist built his reputation on stellar work in some of the greatest franchises put to the big screen. Tippett received Oscars for Jurassic Park, RoboCop, and Return of the Jedi during his storied career. Yet Mad God stayed on his mind, and in 1990, he finally began his opus. Over the following decades, he continued to work and eventually received the budget required thanks to crowdfunding on Kickstarter. Even if audiences knew that Tippett was an effects wizard, few would have predicted a film quite like Mad God.
As a visual storyteller, Tippett bares a strong resemblance to Ralph Bakshi. His ideas are at least as wild, worldbuilding the worst world imaginable. Humans and monsters struggle for survival and murder each other regularly. It becomes increasingly obvious that Tippett’s general view of humanity may not be particularly positive.
While he may not be optimistic, Mad God quickly earns its place among the greatest stop-motion films of the last twenty years. Crafting a visual aesthetic so unruly that hell seems like the best place to go is quite the accomplishment. The production quality shines through in every sequence. There have rarely been films so detailed in their displeasure for life on earth. In Tippett’s hands, this negativity becomes so excessive, that it may threaten to break the viewer’s spirit. If anything, Tippett tests the audience to go on the journey into the bowels of hell, and if you make it out, you’ve found your people.
Tippet imbuing these images of gore and violence with strangely sick humor establishes Tippett’s unique voice. To say Mad God is a singular film undersells the primordial scream at its heart. As the world establishes new technologies that can change the world, someone will inevitably use them for bad.
As Tippett seems to understand, his work helped destroy an artform he adored. If one were to read Mad God as Tippett questioning the value of his work, it would be a valid reading. On the other hand, he may simply be trying to push the audience to its breaking point. Either way, Tippett has us in the palm of his hands for 85 minutes. As you crawl out of the primordial ooze, you will find yourself unable to look away. Get ready to have your brain melted by arguably the most insane film I’ve seen in years. Bravo to the master.
Alan’s Grade: 8 out 10
Mad God is playing in exclusive theaters. It is currently available on Shudder.