The Spine Of Night Review

The Spine Of Night
An ancient, dark magic falls into the wrong hands, and unleashes ages of suffering onto mankind. In response, a group of heroes from different eras and cultures band together in order to defeat it at all costs.

by Kambole Campbell |
Updated on
Release Date:

24 Mar 2022

Original Title:

The Spine Of Night

An oddity that clashes Heavy Metal and Ralph Bakshi-style sword-and-sorcery (and sex) with almost Lovecraftian cosmic encounters, The Spine Of Night is a fascinating indie animation; a deliberate throwback to a bygone era of animation. The passion of directors Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King's seven-year project — drawn out by the arduous process of rotoscoping (essentially, tracing frame-by-frame over live footage) — combined with over-the-top, face-melting bloodshed, old-school hand-painted backdrops and vivid, otherworldly neon colours really befits its curious fantasy narrative. The style, it’s fair to say, is more involving than the particulars of this aeons-spanning tale, though that feels intended: it's really channelling a certain vibe, right down to the wild synths and choral chants of its score.

The Spine Of Night

That story is decentralised from any one figure. It unfolds as a not-quite anthology, seeing different generations fighting the same inevitable entropy, with environmentalist anxiety tied up in its story of the mysterious dying power known as ‘the Bloom’, and the looming death of Tzod’s (voiced by Lucy Lawless) home swamp. In telling this tale, the directors gathered a number of actors with genre credentials for the voice cast, all game but some significantly stronger than others — a snarling Richard E. Grant, fanatical Lucy Lawless and a pre-Get Out Betty Gabriel particularly shine.

It can be a little rough around the edges. The aforementioned voice-acting falls a little flat in spots, and sometimes the realistically animated characters can feel somewhat divorced from the painterly backgrounds. But such patches are part of the nature of a small-scale project such as this, and it never feels truly intrusive, especially when examined against the ambition of its narrative and a mash-up of genre and animation style that itself feels ancient.

The Spine Of Night is here to satiate the cravings of those who miss a particular brand of animated storytelling, updated with added psychedelic fervour and plenty of extra-gnarly bloodshed.
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