#SXSW: “THE SPINE OF THE NIGHT”
Review by David Baldwin
In a time of witches, swords and magic, an ancient evil has risen to power and has been enslaving humankind. Through the ages, heroes rise and fall trying to take down this evil, but what will it take to stop it?
If you are a fan of Heavy Metal and films of its ilk, then THE SPINE OF NIGHT may seem like it was tailor made for you. Viciously-graphic violence, harsh explosions (mainly involving blue fire) and obscene nudity are just the start of what you are in for over the course of the Film’s 93-minute running time. It initially felt like a blueprint for a live action epic, but there is no way any of the wild happenings here would ever make it to the big screen in any form other than this rotoscoped animation style. Some moments look genuinely incredible with how vividly detailed they are, and others are cruder than you would ever expect. The technique is rarely used so extensively in modern animation, so it was refreshing to see it employed here, allowing the Filmmakers to make interesting and unique choices in telling their blood-soaked story.
Where THE SPINE OF NIGHT lost me was in its pacing and structure. The majority of the Film is told in jumpy episodic flashbacks, with very few characters appearing in multiple segments. It makes latching onto any one element of the story difficult, and takes a bit of time to jump on board for – especially when the flashbacks are so non-linear. And while it is fun to hear voices like Richard E. Grant, Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt and Joe Manganiello as these characters, I found so many of their performances to be dull, lifeless and generally unenthusiastic. I was excited to watch and love this Film, but merely found myself admiring the scope and style and not much else.
THE SPINE OF NIGHT screens at SXSW Thursday, March 18, 2021 starting at 9 PM ET.