The Spine of Night Review: Brutal Mythmaking Will Leave Viewers Howling for More of This Adult Animation
We all love a good animated film. Now, in most cases, animation is tailored to family entertainment but every so often we do get a gem of a film that veers into adult animation and stands against the dominance of the medium. The adult animation seems to have found comfort in comedy, and don’t get me wrong I love South Park, Rick and Morty, and Family Guy that all delve into adult humor with parodies. This is part of what makes The Spine of Night such a special entry in adult animation as it steers away from what we are used to in American animation and brings us brutally mythmaking storytelling with wild adventure and what could be the most unique adult animation since Heavy Metal.
The film brought together Phillip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King who turned a short film (Exordium) into this epic fantasy film that spans centuries under the direction and scribing of Gelatt and King. The film also boasts an ensemble cast that lends their voice to the film to bring a wide cast of characters to life beginning with Lucy Lawless‘ Tzod. Tzod is a swamp witch that travels through the snow mountains searching for The Guardian (Richard E. Grant). The Guardian has stood watch for what seems an endless amount of time, and the question that instantly rises is what is he watching over and why is Tzod searching for him? Well, that is where this journey takes us as these characters become the storytellers of our tale.
The central point of this tale is a magical flower that contains immense power and like The One Ring, it draws power-hungry individuals, and Tzod bears witness to the horrors the ambitions of the barbarian (Joe Manganiello), a tyrant (Patton Oswalt), and a prophet (Larry Fessenden) bring to the world until she is witness to the humanity of one noble scholar (Betty Gabriel). At first glance, this all may seem a bit daunting with the scope of this tale and the ensemble of characters that traverse the film, but this is where the film finds its grace and pleasantry as the seamless transition from one tale to the next ushers the viewer through the story and lets us enjoy the mythos and bloody violence that come as a result of the betrayal, greed, and sacrifice in the film.
King’s talent as an animator comes on full display in the film as the characters and their movements are imbued with a live-action feel that gives the characters a realistic physicality that is often not captured in animation. It doesn’t stop there as they adapt this to every movement such as a blow from a weapon that applies a sense of gravity that is captured graciously. All these animations combined with the depth and colors of the backdrops create an ambiance that blends art with realism with next-level execution from the animators.
Overall, the venturesome ambition and approach to The Spine of Night paves the way for what I can only hope other creators will seek to bring to adult animation. An unnerving fantasy drama that spans eons and is given an authentic visual aesthetic to pair along with the talented cast that lent their voice to these characters. The film shows determination in offering viewers a mature fantasy adventure that does not shy away from sex and violence. If you find joy in films such Heavy Metal, then The Spine of Night will be a provocative choice to tune into as it brings the bloodiness of warring gods, greed, and betrayal to viewers with a ferociousness and daring approach that is elevated by the unique and realistic combination of realistic and artistic animation.