The Spine of Night

Director Morgan Galen King,Philip Gelatt / 2021 / USA

This ultra-gory animated fantasy is a chaotic ride perfectly calibrated for your inner 1980s teenage dirtbag.

When did fantasy get so soft? Luckily, animator Morgan Galen King and comics writer Philip Gelatt remember when the genre appealed to mature audiences – or, at least, immature teens. In The Spine of Night, Lucy Lawless voices sexy swamp witch Tzod, who seeks the power of a mystical blue mountain blossom; naturally, it’s kept safe by an armoured guardian (voiced by Richard E Grant). The bloom’s long and terrible history unfolds in a series of brutal vignettes: warlords, scholars, barbarians and nobles have all sought and fallen in the face of this floral power source.

In loving homage to such fantasy touchstones as Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 Lord of the Rings, 1981 anthology Heavy Metal and the artwork of Frank Frazetta, King and Gelatt painstakingly hand-rotoscoped The Spine of Night over seven years – and they got its retro look just right. Joining Lawless and Grant among the film’s superb voice cast are Patton Oswalt (A.P. Bio), Betty Gabriel (Get Out) and Joe Manganiello (True Blood). If you revel in lopped cartoon limbs, spells sparring it out with blades, and the most audacious of epic fight scenes, this deftly made gorefest is for you.

“An ambitious, high-concept fantasy anthology epic that spans time, leaving a trail of bodies and entrails in its wake … A breathtaking rarity.” – Bloody Disgusting

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