Phil Tippett, the maestro visual effects supervisor behind some of the greatest Hollywood franchises of all time, has had a wild journey in the industry. From working on Robocop to designing Jabba the Hut on Star Wars, Tippit has been at the forefront of and helped shape the entire industry from its humble roots in the 70s. An idea that existed in his mind back in the 80s when Tippett was hard at work on Robocop, Mad God was finally brought to life in 2021 through a decades long journey that saw Tippett shelve the project multiple times due to both financial and creative limitations. A 90 minute stop motion animated horror extravaganza, Mad God exemplifies the maestro Tippett unleashed in regards to what he does best; design glorious creatures and setpieces that push the envelope of what is possible on screen.
Brought to life by the magic of crowdfunding site Kickstarter, Tippett’s Mad God charts the journey of a masked figure known only as the Assassin as he descends and rummages through a hellish underworld filled with mutants and ghoulish creatures. With death lurking at every corner in every shape or form, the Assassin will have to tread carefully if he is to complete the mission he is charged with. Tasked with detonating a bomb that will bring about a new day, the Assassin will meet his match in the Surgeon; a sadistic doctor looking to harvest the Assassin’s secrets. Will the Assassin succeed in detonating his payload and bring about the end to the disgusting nightmare or does fate have another plan in its grand machinations?
Right off the bat, the most obviously glorious thing about the entire production is its ghoulish imagery. Tippett reaches for the stars in his attempts to make the most horrifying picture on screen and mostly succeeds in this regard. From the creature designs to the set pieces, each element of the production looks and feels auteur-like. Throwing both caution and mediocrity to the wind, Tippett ensures that the monsters are not only inventive, they are utterly insane and a fuel for nightmares even for adults. From mutant babies to ghastly surgeons, each character is developed in line with a horror and gore-like fetish. Every character is brought to life with stop motion animation with Tippett and his team spending countless hours on every single frame. This labour of love really shows on screen as creature after creature showcases the impressive technical wizardry of a man many have come to dub the pioneer of special effects in Hollywood.
Part of the bleak, dystopian vision comes to life on part of the splendid sound design which is masterfully done by Academy Award winning sound designer Richard Beggs. From unique sounds of countless monsters to the eerie background noise of the ghoulish underworld, Beggs goes all in to compliment Tippett’s singular vision of languish, hopelessness and terror. Some critics have noted the simplistic nature of the narrative however this is a fantastic audiovisual experience through and through. Tippett’s most imperative goal here seems to transport the audiences into a world few have ever dreamt up and he succeeds by a huge margin in this regard.
Touted as a nightmare thirty years in the making, Mad God is perhaps best compared to the fantasy nightmares of Guillermo del Toro. Tippett and del Toro both display a knack for the weird and the fantastical and Tippett, through his passion project, has succeeded in displaying how a truly disturbing stop motion horror story should look like. Part of this is due to the absolutely stunning cinematography that frames both the action and the creatures in a waking nightmare from which there is no escape. With a colour palette that brings out the bleak hopelessness of the dystopia, Tippett has attained success in framing a story that feels as fresh and original as it does unnerving.
With every creature, every set and every item in this macabre tale hand crafted with extreme detail and painstakingly animated using traditional stop-motion techniques, the dedication by Tippett to both his vision and story is unparalleled to say the least. This dedication becomes even more impressive in face of the immense psychological and mental toll the picture took on its maker’s mind. Savage, cruel and filled with moments of awe inspiring terror,there is no doubt that Mad God is the magnum opus of an industry professional who has no equal. Utilising his four decade long stint in the industry to guide and form his creative vision, Tippett has made a horror masterpiece; one that will speak to both fans and unsuspecting audiences alike. There is so much to analyse and pick apart in this film, as every frame is made with a labour of love unparalleled in today’s age of computed generated effects and wizardry. A glorious visual spectacle that impresses in more ways than one, Mad God is a fine film and a fantastic expression of the creative prowess of one of Hollywood’s greatest visual effects artists of all time.
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