Above, the glorious colours of the heavens cast a veil across the night while below a woman struggles upwards through the snow across a mountain ridge towards the summit; there she will confront the Guardian, the latest in a long line who for generations have protected the sacred blue blossom and the power it holds.
A witch of the swamp whose own story was curtailed when she was taken hostage by the mercenary forces employed by the arrogant and ambitious Lord Pyrantin, she was first aided then betrayed by the scholar Ghal-Sur who only wanted her powers for himself, raising himself as a necromancer, an immortal demi-god whose quest for ultimate knowledge has subjugated the land.
A revival in theme and spirit of the animated sword and sorcery epics of the late seventies and early eighties directed by Ralph Bakshi, Wizards, The Lord of the Rings and Fire and Ice, with rotoscoped action drawn upon artfully designed and illuminated backgrounds the mysticism and violence of The Spine of Night could have been drawn from the imaginations of Frank Frazetta or Jean Giraud.
Co-written and directed by Love, Death & Robots’ Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King whose previous short Exordium was crafted in the same style and set in the same universe, The Spine of Night is structured as chapters in a greater history woven together to form a narrative by the swamp witch Tzod, exhausted but resolved in her purpose, her goal not combat but to seek understanding.
The cast including Battlestar Galactica‘s Lucy Lawless, Loki‘s Richard E Grant, Mystery Science Theatre 3000‘s Patton Oswalt, The Purge: Election Year‘s Betty Gabriel, Archenemy‘s Joe Manganiello and Dementer‘s Larry Fessenden, the variable animation is at its best excellent and at worst acceptable but throughout the ambition and dedication cannot be faulted.
Creating a vast world from creation myth to downfall recounted by those possessed of the secret knowledge of the first gods, their mistakes echo forward in the blood spilled across generations, the patterns repeating as armies and empires rise and fall, the disillusioned Guardian who has seen it all serving a purpose but not a master, lonely witness to violence and warfare against a cosmic backdrop of the stars turning.
The Spine of Night is available on Shudder now