MAD GOD is a thirty-year act of love from the brain and heart of award-winning effects and design artist, Phil Tippet. And I’ll just say the thing we’re all thinking: No, it should not be watched while high. I mean, you could. In the same way you could torture a monkey-looking thing in your hellish dystopian society. Yeah, you could, sure. But I wouldn’t recommend it. This movie is wild enough and leaves that monkey-thing alone.
So, the plot is up to interpretation (prepare for the neckbearded philosophers) because the story is so alien and also without any discernible language (except for when a creature sees its friend being eaten and has a Mr. Bill “oh, no” moment).
Honestly, I had to look a few things up to see what was happening, but the gist is this: the world is awful. Everywhere it’s dog-eat-dog. It’s a hellish landscape of sadists — either creating drones for sacrifice and labor or torturing other creatures for their own benefit and pleasure. Basically, it’s as if Machiavelli, Ayn Rand, and the Marquis de Sade had the ugliest, meanest baby and that baby was this planet.
So, from the sky comes a traveler, The Assassin, to start his journey into the depths of this horrid planet. What is his purpose? Why did he come here? All in due time. You have to be patient to find out.
However, as you begin to be exposed to the horrors within this dark planet, you start to understand that he may have not been the first to travel here…
MAD GOD is a slow burn. You will know within the first three minutes if you’ll be a huge fan or think this is a dud. And honestly, how people like it will probably be split. MAD GOD is an experimental film; it does not feed you information. In fact, MAD GOD reminded me a bit of the 1979 Russian film, Stalker, in that you are not fed the real information of the events, but rather just from the limited perspective of the main character (The Assassin). The information you are given is foreign and it relies heavily on shorthand hints.
Or I guess a more cheesy example would be the Star Wars holiday special and watching the Wookies communicate with each other. You are relying heavily on the visual cues as to how to react and what the story is trying to tell us.
But does it work in telling a story?
Eh, yes and no. It’s hard to feel something for characters when we don’t even understand their motivations. We don’t know exactly why The Assassin is there, where he’s from, and why he’s doing what he’s doing. For love? For money? For kicks? For a Burger King coupon? It’s unclear.
Sure, he’s our proxy into this gross and terrifying world, but with his face also completely closed to us, it’s difficult to determine who he is and why we should be journeying with him. Why are we rooting for him? Unfortunately, MAD GOD lacks that cohesion other silent movies have shown can be achieved (like the beginning of WALL-E, or 3-Iron).
Okay, now that that is out of the way – hoo boy. The visuals and music. Damn, damn, damn. Beautiful.
Tippet knows how to make a hellscape. These are things of nightmares and dreams. MAD GOD shows he can do both with flawless execution. Right away, I knew I was in for a stunning ride as The Assassin made his way down into the world. Incredible, utterly incredible visuals. So visceral and nightmarish, they are completely captivating.
The music, both minimalistic and beautifully added, from Dan Wool was breathtaking. It’s beautiful and hopeful, grotesque and frightening. It wove in and out of MAD GOD with a preciseness that was so clever and well-timed.
The only other thing I would comment on is that it’s basically nihilism in a can. Be ready to feel the drudgery and ache of a dying hope within the madness, and as chaos meets you at all turns. Much like The Assassin making his way down into the hell pit of his Fate, MAD GOD drags your soul along for the ride in its dystopian warning.
Oh, and be wary of the neckbeard conversations that will surely follow with its release.
The bottom line is if stop-motion slow-burn films about nihilism are your jam, you’re going to be head-over-heels for MAD GOD. If you’re more into a popcorn movie to watch as a first date, maybe skip it.
MAD GOD will debut on Shudder on Thursday, June 16, 2022.