Mad God is a 2021 American stop-motion adult animated experimental horror film written, produced, and directed by Phil Tippett. Completed in 2021, the film was produced over a period of thirty years.
Traveling through the underworld, the assassin encounters many creatures mercilessly preyed upon by larger monsters. Eventually, he reaches a city which is home to an army of faceless drones, apparently ruled by a monstrosity with filthy teeth and seared flesh who speaks in baby babble. Deep within the city's bowels, the assassin discovers a mountain of suitcases just like his own. The assassin opens his suitcase, revealing a timed bomb, which he places and prepares to set off. He fails to notice a creeping monster behind him, which then attacks and drags him away as the bomb's ticking hand appears unable to complete its circuit of the clock.
The assassin is shackled to a table and stripped in front of a mass of spectators. A surgeon appears with a nurse, splits open the assassin's abdomen, and begins rummaging through his chest cavity. Jewelry and papers are pulled out and thrown to the floor. Eventually, the surgeon finds his goal: a strange, infant larva-like creature that is wailing. The surgeon hands it to the nurse, who carries it away.
The surgeon bores a hole in the assassin's head and hooks his brain to a television set. As the surgeon watches the television, the world above is shown, where the last man gives a map forged by gnarled witches to an assassin and sends him down in a diving bell. Driving a motorcycle and then a jeep, the assassin follows the map through a munitions depot, a graveyard and a war zone before descending a spiral roadway.
Back in the underworld, the nurse brings the infant to a ghostly, floating creature who escorts the child to an alchemist's lair. The alchemist grinds the infant into liquid, then alchemically transforms its remains into gold. This gold is then used to create a new cosmos which undergoes the same cycle of evolution, civilization and self-destruction as the previous one. In doing so, the clock in the assassin's bomb appears to somehow restart and complete its circuit.
While working on RoboCop 2, Tippett began filming what would become Mad God. His work on Jurassic Park led him to believe the days of stop-motion were over, and the film was shelved.
So on the weekends I would get as many as 15 and 20 people coming round. They didn't all have the talent or skill, but I'd figure out the processes during the week. I had them do all the heavy lifting.
With aid from Kickstarter donations, Tippett was able to create the first three sections, which make up about half of the film. Tippett released a behind-the-scenes footage on YouTube during production.
The original score was composed by Dan Wool, who started work on the project in 2010 and developed the score in chapters until the release in 2021. The soundtrack album, released by Waxwork Records, came out June 21 2022 on double-vinyl and CD
In the United States and Canada, the film earned $8,416 from two theaters in its opening weekend. It expanded to 26 theaters in its second weekend and made $36,588. It added $24,451 in its third weekend, $37,617 in its fourth, and $16,280 in its fifth, ultimately grossing more than double its $150,000 budget in its limited theatrical release.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Mad God holds an approval rating of 91%, based on 91 reviews, and an average rating of 7.8/10. Its consensus reads, "A rich visual treat for film fans, Mad God proves that even in the age of CGI, the cinematic allure of stop-motion animation remains strong." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 80 out of 100, based on 14 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
John Defore of The Hollywood Reporter praised the film's animation, bleak atmosphere and design, calling it "a tech achievement FX geeks will need to see", and "among the bleakest dystopias [of] science fiction". Sight and Sound's John Bleasdale offered similar praise while also criticizing its bleak setting, summarizing that the film "has all the makings of an instant cult classic". Scoring the film four out of five stars, Drew Tinnin from Dread Central praised the design, atmosphere and animation, as well as the film's soundtrack, calling it "sheer artistry coming to life".
Christopher Stewardson from Our Culture Magazine rated the film four out of five stars, commending the animation, visual design, hellish atmosphere, and dream-like quality, writing "Mad God almost has an anti-war ring to it. In its abstract madness, it presents the nightmare of what war does. Nobody is human. Only monsters exist".
The film was not without its detractors. IGN's Kristy Puchko gave a score of five out of ten, commending the atmosphere and visuals, but criticized the film for what she felt was the "lack of any real plot or substance".
Prologue: If you disobey Me and remain hostile to Me, I will act against you in wrathful hostility. I, for My part, will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. You shall eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. I will destroy your cult places and cut down your incense stands, and I will heap your carcasses upon your lifeless idols. I will spurn you. I will lay your cities in ruin and make your sanctuaries desolate and I will not savor your pleasing odors. I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle it shall be appalled by it. And you I will scatter among the nations and I will unsheath the sword against you. Your land shall become a desolation and your cities a ruin. Leviticus
Child of a Mad God is very much about the convergence of cultures, and the way that socioeconomic, and religious elements affect the way that societies view each other. As an outsider, Talmadge provides the reader with a somewhat objective view of the various tribes, including the Usgar. He sees the beauty in their way of life, and holds it in some reverence, but, raised in Honce-the-Bear, which resembles pre-Renaissance Europe, he also picks apart some of their beliefs, underestimating and misunderstanding their origins.
One of my favourite aspects of Child of a Mad God is how Salvatore plays with the rules for magic he established in the DemonWars Saga. In the world of Corona, magic is imbued in gemstones which fall from the sky periodically. In the DemonWars Saga, these gemstones are collected and hoarded by the Abellican Church, and used as a tool to control the balance of political and social power. Child of a Mad God is set in a far-flung region of Corona, where the Abellican Church has little reach and no authority, but this magic still exists in a different form. Pulled from the ground and used to make weapons for the Usgar warriors, the gemstone magic warps the spread of power among the Usgar and the lakeside villages. I love the way that Salvatore explores how the magic system, which is identical at its core, is used in different ways by different cultures, with different underlying beliefs about its origin and purpose.
Written and directed by Tippett, Mad God is a furious rebellion against the Hollywood films that built his reputation. Blending stop-motion animation and sprinklings of live-action performances, he has created an experimental film that has no dialogue, no named characters, and no real plot to speak of. So, his directorial feature debut is not a narrative movie but a tour through the darkest corners of his imagination.
Mad God provides a feast for the eyes, but a putrid one. Surfaces glisten with slime. Creatures are spiky with hair, wiry and unwashed. Blood and gore hit not in sprays, but in gloppy explosions. This grungy world is so layered with texture that it feels like you could reach out and run your fingers through it. Though with such a dedicatedly grimy and unwelcoming production design (also by Tippett), who would want to?
The humans in 2001 are driven by their quest for knowledge, goaded on by a higher power that they cannot understand, until their search consumes them. Dave Bowman is eaten by a wormhole. He comes out the other side reborn, more a child of the stars than of the humanity that produced him, inhuman and unfeeling. The monsters of Mad God are devourers with mouths full of obscene teeth, creatures whose only purpose is to consume or be consumed.
Mad God communicates the hopeless warp and weft of its world with no dialogue at all. The environment drips and crackles and gurgles, but no one speaks. The assassin is silent; the man who sent the assassin on their lonely mission only grunts to himself as he formulates his plans. The monsters groan and shriek, inarticulate in their rage. The only other form of communication is the grating wail of a desperately hungry baby.
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