31 Days of Hallowe’en 2022, Day 21: Mad God [2021]

How do I describe a film that has yet to subconsciously worm its way into my future nightmares?

Thirty years in the making, Mad God is a bravura piece of stop-motion-animation filmmaking written, directed and produced by the legendary Phil Tippett (he of Star Wars and Jurassic Park fame). It’s very light on plot but heavy on symbolism, as many experimental films are: a soldier-like figure enters a world of grotesque monsters and their subjugates. That might sound simple enough but the striking, grim, utterly repellent imagery is anything but. Don’t eat while you watch this.

I have to admit that I had two issues off the bat that aren’t really the fault of the film itself: to follow the plot and to find out the names/occupations of these characters (i.e., the main guy is The Assassin), I did have to follow along on Wikpedia, which is the first time I’ve ever found myself having to do that. Secondly, I watched via Shudder. I know I shouldn’t have. I know I should have listened to everyone I know who isn’t in the continental US. Shudder fucking sucks. I already hated their eye-bleeding, weird semi-scrolling user interface (which is worse than Prime’s). But the stream froze so many times I was starting to fall asleep. It completely ruined the flow of the film and interrupted key beats and so I think that was why I had trouble following the bare-bones plot. The fact that it was past 3am didn’t help, either.

Above everything else, this film is a technical feat and visual feast, and both show. It reminds me of my first viewing of that Final Fantasy movie, where everyone was too busy marvelling at the visual effects and hyper-realistic, groundbreaking animation rendering to actually pay attention to the movie. The world we witness is truly nightmarish, stacked with by turns disgusting, beautiful and gruesome imagery that is so precisely detailed it’s hard to believe that it’s really stop-motion (though some other scenes are actually live-action). Despite my technical woes, I think this is a film I’d definitely come back to, because it feels like it would be a continuously rewarding drip-feed of the macabre.

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