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[SXSW ’21] ‘The Spine of Night’ review: Homage to fantasy shreds in this violent ode

The Spine of Night is so metal and so much fun.

Nostalgia is a driving factor in creativity. Things beloved from the past, find a way into the present. SXSW’s Midnighters section features an animated film rich in lore and characters. The Spine of Night is an awesome tribute to both the fantasy genre and artists.

Philip Gelatt and Morgan King’s film is described as an “ultra – violent, fantasy epic.” The Spine of Night absolutely delivers on this. Tzod, a powerful sorceress and protector of the swamp, has her power stolen by the greedy scholar Ghal-sur. This unleashes chaos and corruption across the land over a great period of time. It’s a classic story of good vs evil with themes of class structures, the value of knowledge, and respect for the land. In true fantasy fashion, there is a wonderful use of magic and hand to hand combat. 

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Lucy Lawless voices the character of Tzod, a brave warrior set on setting the world right again. Richard E. Grant voices The Guardian, the last of a line of heroes tasked with protecting a powerful magic source. Joe Mangianello, Patton Oswalt, and Betty Gabriel are among the featured voices. 

[SXSW '21] 'The Spine of Night' review: Homage to fantasy shreds in this violent ode

The Spine of Night’s characters are rich and developed players in the quest for justice or world domination, if that’s their motivation. A brilliant lore is established for The Guardians. Supporting characters like Mongrel (Mangianello) and Phae-Agura (Gabriel) are layered with drive and depth. 

Using traditional rotoscoping, hand drawn animation, the film pays homage to the classic fantasy films like 1981’s Heavy Metal and 1978’s Lord of the Rings.  The animation and detail featured in The Spine of Night is completely R rated with nudity and the violence is gratuitous and stylishly detailed.

Sure to inspire cosplay and new tattoos, The Spine of Night is fantastically metal and is currently showing at this year’s South By Southwest Festival.

SXSW is March 16 – March 20. Tickets and a full lineup can be found here.

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