I had spotted this film in the upcoming features for our local bijou and then the trailer, airing on Shudder during the intermission of “The Last Drive-In” got us all excited, so we trundled off over the hill to catch it when it opened just a few days later.
Mad God is an effort that’s been constructed over 30 years. A product of special-effects impresario Phil Tippet’s studio, boosted by some crowdfunding and Shudder money, presumably, it could perhaps best be described as a stop-motion Inferno. It begins with the Tower of Babel (or something like that) being consumed by smoke and fiery clouds, which led me to believe that this was, literally, about an angry god. But madness of the other sort prevails.
After the tower is (presumably) destroyed along with the world, we have a future where the world is in ruins, hellish and dystopic, and yet actually pretty sane compared to what is to come. An agent is sent into the earth below where we see layers of Hell (or something close enough to it as to make no never mind) where life is tortured and destroyed, and maybe even created—only to be tortured and destroyed. The agent is on a machine. He’s got a suitcase with a bomb in it. He’s gonna blow up Hell or something.
I could describe the whole plot as I perceived it and it wouldn’t really be even slightly spoilery. It also wouldn’t match up at much what I presume the canonical description of the plot (per Wikipedia) is.
It’s not really about the plot, though. I realized that early on and just enjoyed the visuals trying (but not too hard) to make sense of the proceedings. It’s a novel creation, a truly unique filmed experience, sometimes beautiful in its horror. The Boy was so taken by the first half of the film, the second half disappointed him somewhat, as he didn’t feel it tied things together that well. We agreed, leaving the theater, that we could turn around right then and watch it again.
To say that it’s not for everybody is to do violence to the phrase “not for everybody”. This is genuinely weird, more than occasionally uncomfortable, existing outside of normal concepts of “morality”—existing outside normal concepts of “normal”. It’s disturbing. And this is me saying that.
Just as much as it isn’t for everybody, it is really, really for us. Seeing someone’s “completely different mind working on full blast” is one of the reasons we go to the movie, and this delivers in spades.
It’s the sort of movie that rewards you for watching closely, and gives you lots to speculate on. Maybe the imagery is just random and meaningless, but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like every set-piece, every 5-second shot for that matter, has a backstory and could be the basis for a whole ‘nother story. If the movie doesn’t quite delivery a satisfying “why”, it makes up for it by giving lots of potential answers.
We saw this right after Crimes of the Future, and any movie that makes a Cronenberg body-horror seem tame in comparison has definitely got something going on in my book!