Phil Tippett in one of the pioneers in the field of stop motion animation having worked on Robocop, Star Wars, Starship Troopers and Jurassic Park. That’s a varied and long career; his skills have earned him Emmys and Oscars. But it’s unlikely that any of those will prepare the viewer for Mad Dog which is a personal project over 30 years in the making.

Opening with a quote from Leviticus, an assassin, wearing a gas mask and heavy-duty protective clothing, with a briefcase is lowered within a deep-sea diving bell through several levels of bizarre structures, that include giant skulls and other very strange shapes.

Eventually coming to land the assassin is in a nightmare world, that brings the Chapman Brothers hellscapes sculptures to mind and life. These landscapes are populated by mutated creatures, that variously fight amongst each other, dominate and abuse. Misery and cruelty are all that surround the assassin as he journeys on his mission.

Reaching the target, his explosives fail. He is captured and taken to a place where the assassin (and others) is operated (tortured) on until the thing they are looking for is found and placed into the hands of a nurse (Niketa Roman) and the viewer is led into another strand of this very strange world and story.

A beautiful as it is grotesque Mad God struggles to be totally coherent in a narrative sense. There are early images of figures that are created just to do chores, until they die on the job or are killed. No matter, plenty more where they came. It could be an allusion to the daily trudge of life and exploitation. Much as the captured and gutted assassin is soon replaced by another, by an overlord played by Alex Cox.

Less abstract are references to 2001: A Space Odyssey with great black monoliths crashing and crushing, a sort of stargate experience and a baby. It certainly looks like style and imagination over substance. But what incredible style and imagination as Tippett brings his singular ideas to the screen through stop-motion, live-action and animation to tell this dark tale.

It is unremittingly grim and depressing save for a few moments when the film breaks out into gorgeous colours hinting at optimism, only for hope to dashed and cruelly cast aside, throwing viewer back into the pit. Mad God is certainly a unique experience which deserves to be on a big screen.

Mad God will be on Shudder from 16 June 2022.