*silence, punctuated by garbled maybe-words, cries, screams, and wet sounds*
Story: The Assassin travels down, down, down a seemingly never-ending path, map in hand, with little to no empathy for the horrifying goings on happening around them. Elsewhere, a baby cries.
Subgenre: Nihilistic Stop Motion Horrors
Release Date: 2022 (festivals in 2021)
FX: About 90% stop motion. Tons of stop motion gore and violence
Some Clichés/Tropes: We’re Rotting Fleshbags, Man Is The Monster, Time Time Time See What’s Become Of Me
Where I Watched: Shudder
Spooky or Nah?: A jumbly mix of 9, Heavy Metal, Dante’s Inferno, Testuo, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Eraserhead, and acid trip fever dream. (Though I may be a bit repetitive with that last descriptive.) All of which is done in glorious stop-motion animation. I don’t care if you’re not a nilihism aficionado; there’s a pervading sense of off-kilter whimsy that tempers any soul-crushing you’d otherwise expect if this was played 100% straight. If you’re into old-school special effects, and/or off-the-beaten-path films? You need to see this movie. It’s 85 minutes, what kind of commitment is that? Not a big one. Dive in.
The stop motion effects are absolutely breathtaking. You can say that they don’t make them anymore, and you’d be kind of right. The director creator started this project in 1990, and picked it up again only recently to finish things up (thank you, Kickstarter!) Yet, the visions in this film feels timeless. Mad God isn’t 100% stop-motion though. There are moments, scenes, and stories where there are humans (of a sort) that do their thing in and among the stop-motion creatures. Like a dark twisted Muppets movie, yet more horrifying than Skeksis (or Fozzie Bear’s bad puns) could ever be. Oh, and there are real live mealworms. Just FYI, if you get squicked. Though if you’re easily freaked, you’d have turned off this film long before the worms say howdy.
The gore and overall level of absolute ickyness can be extreme, and even though it’s stop motion and obviously not real? It was still effective as hell. The story, what there is of it, is often nonsensical, adding to the sense of dread and hopelessness. Not that the protagonist feels anything, The Assassin just does with The Assassin does. They continue to walk.
Mad God lets us stare at the helplessness and hopelessness of this world, letting us consider our own, and whether we’re walking through a similar – but perhaps not quite as graphic – version of hell. There’s a scene where a doctor performed a disgustingly gruesome autopsy digging out bits and pieces within the creatures cavity; gold, jewels, papers, and other things, all deemed worthless, and tossed to the ground. DOOOOOOD. Yeah. Deep stuff, if, like The Assassin, you focus. There’s no real overarching plot per se, just a pervading sense of misery, hopelessness, and the inability to stop anything in any meaningful way. Pleasant dreams y’all!
This film’s avant garde aesthetic and bleakly nihilistic view may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But for those willing to take a chance and get drawn into the masterful, sure to be award winning stop-motion work? You’ll be paid off and then some. Enjoy the horrors of this dark gem.
Grade: A- (A minus for the lack of universal appeal. Though I reserve the right to bump it up to a full A after I’ve sat with it for a month or two.)