Ultra-violent, epic fantasy set in a land of magic follows heroes from a different eras and cultures battling against a malevolent force.

Music: Peter Scartabello

Cast: Richard E. Grant, Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt, Better Grabriel, Joe Manganiello, Patrick Breen, Larry Fessenden, Jason Gore

Directors: Philip Gelatt, Morgan Galen King
Writers: Philip Galet, Morgan Galen King

Over the past few years, adult animation has been ruled by comedi’s outrageous and raunchy characters. Be that South ParkRick & Morty, or the recent success of many Netflix shows like Big Mouth. But there’s not much in violent adult-focused animation outside of stuff coming out of Japan. Heavy Metal in the early eighties is the go-to film when thinking violent, outrageous and super-serious adult animation, and it’s a film that The Spine of Night is obviously drawing its inspiration from and acts as a spiritual successor. 

It’s more than the violence in The Spine of Night that makes me think of Heavy Metal. The rotoscope animation isn’t something you see often, and it’s the same style adopted here. It looks good, but the technique does have some issues in the fight scenes, which I’ll come back to in just a little bit. 

The Spine of Night focuses on a Witch named Tzod (Lucy Lawless) who discovers the power of the “Bloom,” a blue flower that, when mastered, can be used to craft and perform all manner of spells. Tzod, who appears nude at all times in the film for reasons that are never explained, approaches The Guardian (Richard E. Grant) atop a frozen mountaintop as the film begins. He’s protecting what he thinks is the only remaining Bloom from the human race, unaware it had already slipped down the mountain into the hands of Tzod. She explains the story of The Bloom in man’s hands through four different short stories connected toTzod from within this fantastical world as The Guardian lays and listens. 

Tzod is an intriguing character who could be native to the land and thus an explanation of sorts for the nudity, but a character later becomes a nudist after getting his hands on The Bloom, so I’m not really sure. Much of The Spine of Night leaves you with many questions and wonders about the decisions being made. If you were to walk out of the room during in scene and come back five minutes later, you’d be forgiven for thinking a friend had put a different animated movie on instead. The film kind of just whiplashes about with characters’ and places showing up out of nowhere while you’re left to question if you did fall asleep and miss their introduction. That’s not to say the film is boring because it’s not, but instead that you can’t look away. 

As violent as the film is — and it is very bloody — the fight scenes were a huge letdown. Characters move slowly, almost like an old PC game where you can see the AI loading as they move forward, ready to strike. It’s odd because there are many different parts of the film where it moves faster, or fast-moving characters or animals like horses. But it feels like the fight scenes happen at 15fps, and it’s frustrating to watch. 

I found The Spine of Night impossible to ignore for all my complaints about the confusing plot, odd pacing, and lacklustre fights. The world is so large in scope, fantasy ideas, and its commitment to pure violence and carnage is commendable, but it won’t be for everyone.