Today: April 17, 2024

The Spine of Night

In the current filmmaking landscape so focused on low-risk nostalgia-fuelled remakes, reboots, and sequels, it is always a wonder to find something with a distinctive identity and a sense of originality. While the films themselves can occasionally be misfires, the feeling of stumbling upon something fresh remains as potent as ever – and there’s certainly a taste of that when watching The Spine of Night.

Using hand-drawn rotoscope animation, this adult-aimed dark fantasy feels in many ways like Jim White’s lyric “a schizophrenic version of a psychedelic vision”. The film is full of twisted Lovecraftian cosmic visuals while also retaining a very traditional swords-and-sorcery approach, with the animation style throwing us back to the days of Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards or The Lord of the Rings. There’s no denying that the film is made with an incredible love for the era and style it harks back to, while also carving its own blood-soaked identity.

Its’ indie limitations are felt throughout – animation can occasionally be a little ropey, in particular the relatively bland and textureless rotoscoped figures against some truly beautiful backgrounds. This disconnect is often jarring; it would have been better if the backgrounds were not so stunning so as to not cause this contrast. The animation itself won’t win over anyone who’s never been able to get along with rotoscope, either – it is just as crude as ever, especially in the sequences of 18-rated gore that feel somehow more disturbing in this animation. One cannot fault the immense time and effort that goes into it, though – for info, The Spine of Night took 7 years…

On the whole, The Spine of Night is a treat for genre fans and for anyone looking for something a little more original than the onslaught of recycled IPs. Its plot is convoluted and often nonsensical, and the film is certainly inconsistent – but there’s a lot to admire about the film, from the passion behind the production to the sheer delight of seeing a cosmic, swords-and-sorcery rotoscope flick in 2022.

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