After watching The Spine of Night you’re likely to be left with one burning question: who on Earth is Megan Fuller and what did she do to be thanked for everything in both the movie and both the shorts? Another question is how on Earth did a film like this manage to get actors like that to do the voice work? The only assumption is that some sort of demonic ritual was involved. Or perhaps that was Megan’s job? Maybe she was the behind-the-scenes fixer getting folks to sign on? Either way the end result is… wow. It’s a trip. A trip steeped in blood, death and bucketloads of gore.
The Spine of Night is an anthology of dark fantasy stories, charting the rise of the evil God-King Ghal-Sur (Jordan Douglas Smith – Dark Wings, The Diddler) from lowly scholar to conqueror of the known world, ruling from a temple built out of death, apparently. You do wonder exactly what sort of cement you need to build something out of death. Is it made with blood? Perhaps the bricks are made out of the ground up bones of his enemies? Architectural oddities aside, Ghal-Sur is granted immortality through a strange blue flower that has the power to do… whatever the plot calls for. The Bloom, as they call it, is the ultimate McGuffin. Divine power manifested in a seemingly innocent flower, kept safe from mankind over the aeons by a succession of Guardians.
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But now the Bloom is almost gone, and the last Guardian (Richard E. Grant – Loki, Withnail & I) finally approaches the end of his long, lonely vigil as the Swamp Witch, Tzod (Lucy Lawless – Battlestar Galactica, Xena: Warrior Princess) tells him stories of the world of man and the rise of this new God-King.
The voice cast assembled here is a seriously impressive one. As well as Richard E Grant and Lucy Lawless, there’s also Patton Oswalt (Spiderman, Agents of Shield), and Joe Manganiello (Justice League, True Blood) voicing Lord Pyrantin and Mongrel respectively. They’re a pleasure to listen to, helped along by some great dialogue. One of the best lines has to be a brief exchange between Phae Agura (Betty Gabriel – Upgrade, Get Out) and an old blind prophet (Larry Fessenden – Session 9, Habit). Prophet: “Dark times have befallen us. Great Mongrel, the Eunuch King, has died after a very long reign. He has left no sons.” Phae Agura: “You’d think someone would have realised that might be a problem with a Eunuch king.”
This physical release comes with a small selection of special features in the shape of a behind-the-scenes featurette and two other shorts from writer/director Morgan Galen King. The Making-Of featurette is honestly the highlight of the disc, with the narrator gloriously hamming it up as he introduces each section. It’s truly amazing to see the love and effort that went into this film, and how they took actors in cardboard costumes in a nearly-bare warehouse and conjured up a sprawling dark fantasy epic. Near the end the cast and crew recommend further watching/reading for anyone who has enjoyed the movie and their recommendations are likely to come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the genre.
As well as the making-of, there are two short films. There’s Mongrel, which shows us a brief encounter between Mongrel and the Ape King, and Exordium, the short film that started off the whole fantasy universe where the Spine of Night is set. Both are well worth watching, taking less than 12 minutes of your time to watch both, but are best watched after the main film for added context.
The Spine of Night wears its inspiration on its sleeve, and that’s no bad thing. It’s been a long time since we had a film quite like this and it deserves to stand proudly alongside genre icons such as Heavy Metal, Fire and Ice and Wizards. The stories are strong, the characters are interesting, and Peter Scartabello’s soundtrack is compelling (and also available on Spotify!). The animation style might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but any self-respecting fantasy fan should give this one a look. There’s a whole lot here to love.
The Spine of Night is out on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on 24th October from Acorn Media International.