Phil Tippett is one of the most seasoned and iconic visual effects artists in Hollywood, with an incredible body of work that includes benchmark films such as Jurassic Park, Robocop, Starship Troopers and Star Wars.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, his work in the field of stop-motion animation was revolutionary – he even pioneered a revisionist method known as Go-Motion, a technique which infuses motion-flow and blur into each frame to further augment the effect with its live-action setting. This technique was used extensively throughout Star Wars and has been adopted by countless filmmakers since.

Around the time that the Academy Award-winning VFX artist was working on Robocop (1987), he began to conjure a vision; a nightmarish fable, which would ultimately take 30 years to create. The film is Mad God and it’s a twisted descent into the subconscious, whereby reality as we know it ceases to exist and hideous creatures lurk.

With no dialogue whatsoever, Tippett’s fantasy explores hellish landscapes occupied by grotesque monsters, and leans heavily on the work of Milton, Dante and Benjamin Christensen. It tells the story of an unknown assassin who descends upon a ruined world and travels across a city full of mutants and enemy combatants.

He is captured and exposed to various tortures and depravities, while strange human-like figures look on. Scary surgeons enter the frame, as well as mad alchemists and their barbaric experiments, as the assassin’s journey perpetually spirals into an odyssey of anguish and torment.

Suffice to say that Mad God is a visceral assault on the senses and serves as an abstract expression, rather than a cohesive and penetrable narrative. It hasn’t been made to be understood in a logical sense, and it requires an absolute suspension of disbelief from the viewer. It’s a moving work of art to be observed and absorbed, and one viewing is not enough to fully grasp its artistry.

Stop-motion animation lends itself to dark and sinister storytelling, as proven by classics like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline and Frankenweenie. It also offers unlimited scope for the imagination as demonstrated in films like Anomalisa, My Life as a Zucchini and Isle of Dogs. But never has it been exploited the way Tippett has dared to dream (or nightmare) with this directorial endeavour.

With the painstaking nature of stop-motion animation and its frame-by-frame technique of bringing characters to life, as well as the difficulties of producing such a project independently without the resources of a big studio’s backing, it’s incredible to comprehend 30 years of development and the mental state required to see it to fruition.

Moreover, it’s an experiment one can imagine being revived again and again throughout the years. As well as being an instant cult classic, the film lends itself to alternative soundscapes and instrumental backing, and it would be surprising if Mad God isn’t screened at some point in the future with live orchestration and surrogate music – the complete lack of dialogue makes it ripe for the picking.

Mad God can be described as Phil Tippett’s magnum opus and a film for the ages, and while it will test the patience of some, it will certainly invigorate the imagination of others.

Interview with Phil Tippett

• Mad God screens as part of Monster Fest at Melbourne’s Cinema Nova on Saturday, 4th December. Book your tickets now!