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  Mad God Holidays In Hell
Year: 2021
Director: Phil Tippett
Stars: Alex Cox, Niketa Roman, Satish Ratakonda, Harper Taylor, Brynn Taylor, Hans Brekke, Brett Foxwell, Jake Freytag, Harper Gibbons, Tom Gibbons, Tucker Gibbons, Arne Hain, David Lauer, Chris Morley, Anthony Ruivivar, Alexandre Poncet, Talal Selhami
Genre: Horror, Animated, Science Fiction, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The underworld has denizens that fall prey to one another all the time: it's literally a dog-eat-dog world down there and someone powerful believes it should be destroyed. Therefore, a soldier dressed up in protective gear has been lowered down into its depths in a bathysphere, leaving the surface and his masters far behind. But he has an important job to do, and he is not about to swerve his duty. He drops gradually through layers of dinosaur bones, abandoned robots, massive statues and more until he hits the ground and opens the door where he has a chance to see the barbarism up close...

The story behind Mad God is probably better known than the plot of the film, where legendary animator Phil Tippett decided in 1987 to make his pet project, a Hellish epic on a tiny budget almost entirely composed of stop motion sequences, with live action linking sequences. This was a big deal because Tippett was likely the biggest name in stop motion since his hero Ray Harryhausen, so anything he was going to create was going to generate interest. However, it would be a long wait as the film was a stop/start affair (perhaps appropriately) as far as production went, for funds were thin on the ground.

There were times when he was going to give up the project altogether, but then internet fundraisers became a thing and he managed to get it completed in the early twenty-twenties, after tantalising fans with extracts from his work so far at film festivals. Now, obviously this was always going to be a niche proposition, and not everyone was going to want to sit through a relentlessly cruel and grim collection of images that were frequently revolting. But for others, they said "Bring it on!", and were fascinated by the concept and the visuals, and as the piece had been a cult film before it had even been finished, there was an audience.

Following this storyline might have been a trickier request. There does seem to be a certain logic to it, and it does go in a kind of cycle of evolution though you watch wondering which character is meant to be the Mad God. Tippett was so wrapped up in his visuals that while they may have impressed hugely, as a coherent narrative it would have to be judged a failure. But there was a lot to be said for just letting this pass by your eyes and marvelling at how genuinely weird it was: you hesitated to call it eye candy with all that blood and shit and gruesomeness arresting you at every turn, but it was the sort of movie that gets called a "singular vision", you know, like Eraserhead or a Jan Svankmajer effort.

There were comparisons to be made to the work of The Brothers Quay, too, any of those avant garde, surrealist animators who use the medium to channel their subconscious - there was something of the obsessiveness of a Bruce Bickford work too, with the meticulous nature of its quality. The story with the soldier is dispensed with in the first half hour and he is captured and vivisected while alive, somehow giving birth in the process to a centipede-like creature that nevertheless wails like a baby, no, the soundtrack was no more friendly that what was on the screen. Meanwhile cult director Alex Cox of Repo Man fame showed up as a scientist to lower another soldier into the underworld, as we prepare for a cosmic finale that clears up very little, but again, was nothing less than captivating for those who have stayed the course. It was like the world's most dedicated student film, but a number of notches above that in imagination. Music by Dan Wool.

[Mad God - A Shudder Exclusive
Premieres 16th June 2022.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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