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If You Can't Envisage Hell Then...

Anyone in the stop-motion game know Phil Tippett. If you don't know him it's more than likely you have seen his work - and this might be the first place you saw it without knowing it...

Still not sure - try this...


There you go - now you know the work of Phil Tippett. He has popped up here, there and everywhere since the 70's and his work is synonimous with the stop-motion business. There's the famous scene from RoboCop (...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLQiskRb02o ) plus a wealthof other little gems. He's unique in that moving into CGI, he was one of the few animators to bridge the gap between both worlds. It's this that gave him his 'USP' as they say (Unique Selling Point). When Speilberg was making Jurassic Park he retained the services of Phill Tippett to watch over the CGI animators at ILM.


So, it was fasinating to hear a while ago that Phil had a stop-motion film in the works. With his history of 'creature feature' fair you knew straight away this wouldn't be something normal - it wasn't going to have Disney Executives breaking down his door for the exculsive broadcasting rights on DIsney Plus. What made it even more interesting was that this project had been in the works for the better part of 30 years. That throws up all sorts of questions - mainly, what about the changes in technology? How stop-motion was filmed in the early 90's is a world away from where we are today. It was an era of resolutions and ratios that are now six feet under. Was it shot on film? (...do people do that anymore? ...where do you get the film processed??? ). Well,


So, taking a night out to sit down and watch Mad God was something that gave a little buzz of excitment. It felt like a real novelty to have such an experience. What followed was quite intense ...it was an experience indeed...


So, the start with, the visuals are a 100% gore-fest. However, it's the most beautifully animated gore-fest you'll ever see. The attention to detail makes a mini masterpiece out of every single vomit and disembowelling and every death is carefully thought through (!!!!). I'm no fan of horror but it's great to see a stop-motion project pushing into the genre - it's defintely something that might bring a few more people who are so inclined towards animation.


The character designs are dark - very dark - to the point that if these characters had been drafted by mere mortals with regular day jobs colleagues and loved ones would be asking questions about their sanity. As I watched Mad God I couldn't help but wonder how Phil had imagined some of these characters - they were clearly from the mind of someone who was delving deep into the darkest recesses of human creativity. We were being asked to enter a world no one has ever seen before and be shown - if you're lacking a creative mind - what Hell really looks like.


Like any piece of genuine artwork Mad God's storyis multi-layered allowing for multiple interpretations. We open with our 'hero' (The Assasin) being dropped down through layers and layers of rusting, stench filled ever increasing darkness. When it feels like you've finally made it to the pits of hell you get pulled down further. The creatures and monsters we meet all live on the edge of life with horrific wounds and injuries - and life opten doesn't last long. You feel a sense of relief when they finally meet their maker as you see them living among worlds that no one would wish upon their worst enemy. Spoiler alert - our 'hero' doesn't last too long.


This is a work of love from a master of the art form. I've never seen a film that blends stop-motion and live-action so well, even if it was to blend a puppet getting disembowled by a psychotic surgeon. Phil's skill set makes this something very unique (although you can definitely feel the influence of Jan Švankmajer) . While Mad God isn't nessaserily to my taste (...I skipped dinner that night) and the running time seemed a little long even at a slender 85 minutes it always feels like an honour to watch a film by someone who is clearly a master craftsman. Every now and then as we scrape through the rocks of stop-motion someone drags up a shiny golden nugget ready - and Phil has found a big one here.


Here's some great behind the scenes footage combined with an interview with the legend himself - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLKxoo9hO84


Mad God is available on Shudder.




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