A helmeted, goggles-wearing humanoid is lowered, in a diving bell-like metal capsule, down into a nightmarish underworld, where he witnesses unexplainable events, sees strange creatures and travels through a series of harsh, terrible landscapes. He becomes the victim of a gory surgical procedure, where countless items and viscera are removed from his body, including a maggot-thing that cries like a baby… but this isn’t the end of the tale and the weird, cruel, grotesque narrative continues…
MAD GOD was written, produced, and directed by Phil Tippett and it is his malformed labour of love, which he began creating over thirty years ago, then shelved for twenty years, then recommenced work on, using Kickstarter donations and volunteers to help him complete this outlandish product of his fecund imagination.
The film relies less on conventional plotting, using instead a kind of dream logic (or, rather, a nightmare logic) to propel the story forward.
MAD GOD is a mix of stop-motion, miniatures, puppets, pixilation, props and live action, with an abundance of bleak, ruined vistas for the characters to roam through. Tippett doesn’t try to hide the fact that many of the landscapes are tabletop miniatures, he just steams straight ahead with the tale, drawing you into his fantastic, ghastly, intricate world.
Director Alex (REPO MAN) Cox plays ‘The Last Man’ and several other actors play a surgeon or nurse, etc, but the bulk of the characters are portrayed via stop-motion, puppets and models, and the majority of the locations are, as mentioned, detailed, cluttered miniatures.
The production is infernally surreal, with the various beings, such as the many fibrous, mummy-like humanoids, regularly killed in a multitude of offhand, cruel ways. Blood and other bodily fluids, plus ground-up flesh, are often extracted from characters and fed into tubes and receptacles. Torture is common here, suggesting this world is some form of layered, torment-filled hell.
For me, it’s as if a violent, twisted, dystopian Métal Hurlant sci-fi-horror comic strip was written by Italian poet-writer Dante and turned into a film, with the influences of Terry Gilliam, Jan Svankmajer, Ray Harryhausen, René Laloux and David Lynch’s ERASERHEAD added to the mix.
Though the film’s settings are mainly dark and forbidding, there is a brief sequence set in a brightly-coloured habitat, but even here death is always on hand, as we see a cute mushroom-person, who is happily eating maggots, devoured by an arachnid beast.
If there’s an overall point to this tale, then it’s not too clear – and if you require a straightforward narrative, then this film isn’t for you – but if you dive into this viewing experience to enjoy the disturbing cinematic ride, you’ll be rewarded with loads of lovingly-crafted, unsettling, eye-catching sequences that are chock-full of twisted wonder, gore and impressionistic madness, leading up to a cosmic finale, accompanied by an effective soundtrack by Dan Wool.
Some concept art for the movie…
Okay, one more look at that skirmish between the two mesh-faced monsters…