The Spine of Night (2021) – Film Review
Directors: Philip Gelatt Morgan and Galen King
Voice Cast: Richard E Grant, Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt
By Roger Crow
“You librarians have no authority here!” barks a savage warrior in one of the year’s most unusual films. And no, it’s nothing to do with a Zoom call or Jackie Weaver.
The Spine of Night sets its stall out pretty early with a naked woman wandering through a snowy landscape. She’s a wild one all right, and viewers of a certain age will be desperate for her to put some clothes on. But the movie feels like it was written and directed by a 20 year old obsessed with Heavy Metal comics from 40 years ago. And there’s nothing wrong with that as they inspired classic movies such as Alien and Blade Runner, but adult animated fantasy movies have always been a bit cringeworthy.
The Heavy Metal movie in 1981, and Ralph Bakshi’s Fire and Ice struggled to capture the atmosphere of a great fantasy epic. The latter used artistic icon Frank Frazetta as a key source of inspiration, but sucked the life out of his characters.
The Spine of Night, which sounds like a seventies prog rock band, is such a curious watch. The backgrounds are gorgeous, but the rotoscoped characters are so odd. One character is clearly modelled on Sean Connery in Zardoz, but lacks any of the charisma of Zed, while the mostly naked witch character comes across like a naturist nightclub entertainer thanks to a blue feather boa.
Drawing every tooth in a character’s mouth is just annoying, and fight scenes are all just a bit ‘going through the motions’. “Here’s an arrow in your eye, and a sword in your stomach”, but characters interact like a bunch of bored computer game avatars.
In an age when motion capture is the norm, using old school techniques to tell such a plodding story is a misfire. Yes, it sticks out in a market saturated by CG ‘toons, but the retro styling is dead in the water without likeable characters or a witty script.
A shame, because this could have been pretty special, instead of a weird Game of Thrones-style yarn shot in a 1980 style.
And for heavens sakes naked witch woman. Put some clothes on!