‘Backbone of the Night’ Review: Cosmic Forces at Work

While there’s so much content that could be described as “adult animation” these days, we don’t see much in the tradition spearheaded by the rocky semi-classics of the 1980s like sci-fi anthology. “Heavy metal” or the obscene sword-and-sorcery epic “Fire and Ice.”

Admittedly, it’s not like there’s a mainstream outcry for such a charge. Still, the existence of “Spine of the Night,” a brazenly gory, interconnected series of stories about otherworldly cultures and eras, is somewhat heartening. Associate directors Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King, who both wrote the film, step in for a venerable jerk-nerd sensibility here.

The movie depicts the witch warrior Tzod (voiced by Lucy Lawless) signaling her dedication to nudity right before the bat, all racing together across the side of a snowy mountain, save for a bunch of ceremonial jewels. When he reaches the top, he meets the ghostly Guardian (Richard E. Grant), who watches the “bloom.” It has tremendous, perhaps cosmic power.

They tell each other stories about the power of the flower. How he corrupted a medieval scholar who had become a despot. And about how the pursuit of knowledge often turns into greed. Some of the dialogue is amusingly familiar to any Bond fan. “Did you take me from your main swamp to serve this place?” “No, I took you from mother swamp to die in this place.” Hmm.

No matter how philosophical the movie is, it’s mostly a short history of gutting and breaking bones. Unfortunately, all world-building filmmakers don’t mean much if they don’t reflect it visually. And that dense rotoscoping view just doesn’t get where it needs to be to get real trippiness. Not in vain, the most visually effective series consists of silhouettes.

Spine of the Night
Not rated. Working time: 1 hour 33 minutes. In theaters and can be rented or purchased apple tv, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay-TV operators.

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