The Spine of Night trailer

The Amazon series Undone is the last significant film or television project I can think of that used rotoscoping to push the television medium forward, but an upcoming SXSW film is using that labor-intensive technique to capture a sense of the past.

The Spine of Night, a new ultra-violent fantasy horror film that debuts at next week’s virtual film festival, is made in the style of artists like Ralph Bakshi and Frank Franzetta and recalls projects like Heavy Metal and Fire & Ice. And it has a great cast to boot: Richard E. Grant (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess), Patton Oswalt (A.P. Bio), and more lend their voices to this movie. Take a look at the trailer below.

The Spine of Night Trailer

Whoa. Didn’t think I’d be spending a Thursday afternoon watching animated people have their limbs hacked off, but here we are. This looks extremely cool, and not just the novelty of the rotoscope effect, but the vibes of the whole thing: the capes, the torches, the Lord of the Rings-influenced architecture, the…hang gliders? Hell yes. There really aren’t enough hang gliders in movies these days.

So where the hell did this come from? Well, the film is the brainchild of writer/directors Philip Gelatt, who previously directed 2018’s They Remain and wrote the found-footage sci-fi film Europa Report, and Morgan Galen King, who directed a rotoscoped fantasy short called Exordium in 2013. The press release says it is “set in a fantasy land ripe with magic and intrigue where a dark force is unleashed sending mankind into an age of ruin. It falls on heroes from different eras and cultures to fight back.”

Grant, Lawless, and Oswalt star alongside Betty Gabriel (Get Out), Joe Manganiello (Justice League, Magic Mike), Abby Savage (Orange is the New Black), Larry Fessenden (The Dead Don’t Die), and Rob McClure (The Good Fight).

Here’s the official description:

This epic begins many years ago when an ambitious young man steals forbidden knowledge from a sacred plant and, as he falls to its darker temptations, unleashes ages of suffering onto mankind. As his power grows over the years, there are many who stand against him. Among them are a daring tomb-robber, star-crossed lovers, a maniacal necromancer, winged assassins, and an undying guardian.

Inject this into my veins, please. It premieres in the Midnighters section of the SXSW 2021 Film Festival on March 18, 2021.

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