Even if you don’t recognize the name “Phil Tippett,” you’ve almost certainly seen some of his work or techniques in action. The VFX legend has helped create iconic visuals seen in the likes of Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Dragonslayer, RoboCop, Starship Troopers, and many many more. And now, after tinkering away at a passion project for over thirty years, the famed dinosaur supervisor has delivered one his most impressive filmmaking feats yet: Mad God.
Now, as much as I loved it, I’m positive that Mad God won’t be for everyone. The feature-length film is a stop-motion descent into a hellish realm filled with macabre landscapes and grotesque monstrosities. It’s often disturbing, sometimes gets too gross, but the immaculate technical prowess displayed throughout the movie is astonishing. The long-destroyed cities, horrifying dungeons, and everything else is as impressive in scope as it is twisted and horrifying.
Oh, and the denizens of this underworld are equally frightening to boot. The darkest parts of Tippett’s imagination are on put display through the abominable creatures and entities witnessed in Mad God. It’s a cornucopia of craziness. Even our nameless protagonist is fairly creepy, despite never uttering a word.
That’s also another aspect I should probably mention: there isn’t a single line of dialogue or a clear story to follow in Mad God; the film basically takes us on a tour of what I can only assume is either Hell on Earth or an approximation of Hell itself. Tippett relies solely on the outstanding visuals he and his studio created, a haunting score, and top tier sound design to keep his audience captive.
And. It. Works.
The only “flaw” I can attribute to Mad God is the aforementioned, occasional step into gross-out territory, particularly in the first twenty to twenty-five minutes. Having said that, Tippett clearly wasn’t going for gorgeous scenery – at least in the typical sense of the word “gorgeous”- so it might just be me being overly sensitive.
There are so, so many moments throughout Mad God that are equally dark and awe-inspiring. The stop-motion animation is breathtaking, each massive area throughout the bleak and brutal world that we’re taken to feels distinct, haunting, and the beings who dwell within them are consistently, jaw-droppingly horrific. As of now it’s one of my favorite movies of the year, and one of the 2020’s best horror films so far.