Mad God (2021) – Phil Tippett

I first learned Phil Tippet’s name in 1983 when I was reading a behind-the-scenes magazine about the making of The Return of the Jedi, and there was a discussion on the stop-motion and go-motion techniques used to create the movement of the Scout walkers in the Star Wars sequel.

I was fascinated by what I was learning, and quickly began to utter Tippet’s name in the same breath as Harryhausen. He created movie magic.

And for thirty years he had been working on a stop-motion experimental feature that ruminates on the destructive nature of religion, humanity, and the wars both cause. An assassin descends through a nightmarish landscape, layer upon layer of toppled lives, gods, creations, and monstrosities.

He carries with him the tools of his trade, including a bomb that could destroy his target. He travels through the landscape encountering a variety of horrifying vignettes that hint at our nature, our possibility, and the monsters we create in the name of religion and power.

With a Lynchian narrative, we are plunged through stop-motion fever dreams that are a testimony to Tippett’s abilities while also incredibly horrifying to see come to life.

Tippett and those who worked with him on the film’s creation have created a stunning, terrifyingly grotesque look at a world beyond understanding; one filled with blood, piss, shit, and bile, where even someone who would fight to stop it is a monster.

The skill on display here is jaw-dropping, and then to take into consideration how long the film took to be made, the labor of love that it obviously is, it’s powerful. And while it’s not going to appeal to many, effects fans will love it for the work presented, horror fans will love it for the images brought to life, and cinephiles will love it for its expressionism and experimentalism.

Not all of it a comfortable watch, there is some pretty troubling, violent, and bloody things going on throughout the story, and the ambiguous nature of the narrative could push some viewers away. But if you want to see a master craftsperson at work, Mad God is a titanic achievement, and a stunning visual experience.

Anyone who has ever dug the way special effects are brought to life, this is one to see, just for the amazing work on display. And the fact that it took so long to create. Tippett is a master, and it was a wonder to watch this.

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