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(Credit: Christine Ramage / Press)

Film

'Mad God' Review: A gob-smackingly insane trip

@Russellisation
'Mad God' - Phil Tippett
4.3

Created across the course of 30 years, Phil Tippett’s insane stop-motion horror, Mad God, contains the kind of gut-churning imagery that one would see emblazoned on a heavy-metal band T-shirt, showing fleshy satanic beasts dripping in gore and mucus. Though, unlike viewing such merchandise, Tippett’s vision is a thoroughly enjoyable watch, showing the true imagination of a special effects maestro flexing his dexterous fingers. 

Set in a nightmarish Miltonesque subterranean world, Mad God follows the silent adventures of an assassin, clad in a thick protective rubber suit and gas mask, as he travels the many layers of the dystopian vista. Full of mad scientists, terrifying creatures and other such ghouls that roam the land of nightmares, Tippett’s creation teems with sinister life, corrupted by the strange force of natural evil. 

Using the help of Kickstarter contributors to complete the project that he had abandoned throughout the 1990s, Tippett’s Mad God is a rallying cry from horror fans for authentic cinema that utilises the tactility of practical effects. From the hideous green swamps that vigorously bubble to the pulsating vigour of the peculiar faeces factory that churns out rotten test subjects, there’s a real sense of energy to Tippet’s world that exudes from its sheer authenticity. 

Traversing each layer of the world as if the main character of a video game, Tippet’s sprawling journey recalls such interactive platformers as Limbo and Little Nightmares, putting you firmly in the headspace of a character who is oddly apathetic to the insanity going on around them. In a similar way to the aforementioned video game, Tippett puts strict narrative linearity aside for a masterful exercise in world-building. 

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As such, he creates a film that frolics in the pure lunacy of its creation, delighting in peering around each rotten door and underneath each rusted work surface as we follow our protagonist deeper into the darkness. Exploring each new space is as compelling as discovering any new cinematic world for the very first time, with Tippett offering an otherworldly portal into a gruesome universe that the history of cinema has never dared touch. 

In this malevolent world that is constructed without dialogue, Tippett takes prompts from the work of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick, embuing meaning through his own dreamlike impression of the stop-motion world, in ticking clocks, abstract metaphors and, sometimes, direct homages. Indeed, as Tippett’s film moves away from the frenetic stop-motion nightmare of the opening half and hour, he fills gaps with special effects and CGI, performing a climactic light show complete with psychedelic imagery and even a gravity-defying monolith. 

Just as Kubrick transported us to the weightless wonder of Discovery One in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Tippett also thrills in leading audiences to a world of similar awe-inspiring beauty. Though, this beauty doesn’t make us want to stay around for too long, with Mad God’s repugnant quality making the whole experience feel gob-smackingly fascinating, watching the compelling adventure unfold with a tight knot in one’s stomach. 

Boasting a trip into the mind of a truly talented creative, Mad God offers something that few films can, showing off incredible monstrous landscapes conjured from our darkest most terrifying nightmares, brought to life with fleshy authenticity. You’ll be relieved once the journey’s over but you won’t be able to stop yourself from coming back for more.

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