EIFF 2021: Mad God

Special effects wizard Phil Tippett brings his stop-motion magnum opus to screens after three decades of production, and the results are entrancingly grotesque

Film Review by Beatrice Jane Copland | 02 Sep 2021
  • Mad God
Film title: Mad God
Director: Phil Tippett
Starring: Alex Cox, Phil Tippett

Jeff Goldblum, as Dr Ian Malcolm, once said “life finds a way”. This is true both for the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and their creator, special effects wizard Phil Tippett. His magnum opus Mad God has finally seen the light of day after 33 years in production and it is entrancingly grotesque. The plot is less of a linear structure and more a collection of progressively maddening thoughts.

The opening 20 minutes follow a masked figure in World War I regalia traversing through the smoke into a twisted factory-laden landscape. The further he descends, the viler the images become, in an ode to Dante's nine circles of hell. Mad God is not for the faint of heart, then, and includes bodily fluids, genitals, and copious amounts of blood. But once this section concludes, so too do the worst of the visuals. What follows is an hour of sporadic scenes loosely connected via brief character interactions.

The visuals are gruesome but Tippett’s craftsmanship astounds. This nightmarish realm is large in scale with minor details that could be missed upon first viewing. The appearance of legendary animator Ray Harryhausen’s cyclops from 1958’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is a particularly lovely touch – after all, Harryhausen spent years pioneering the use of stop-motion animation and Tippet builds upon that work by occasionally splicing live-action footage into his film.

Mad God features no dialogue – unless you count screams of anguish – so Dan Wool’s score steps in to fill the void, and elevates the film by provoking feelings of fear and melancholy. An astoundingly surreal and captivatingly horrific project, Mad God finds beauty in decay and corruption, and is worth every one of the 33 years it took to make.

Mad God had its UK premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival

Beatrice Jane Copland is 24-year-old trans woman from the Orkney Islands. She blogs about film at shakesqueer.home.blog and is part of Edinburgh International Film Festival's Young Critics Programme. For more on EIFF's Young Critics Programme, click here

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