Unicorn Wars (2022)

Unicorn WarsOnce upon a time, the unicorns lived together with the bears in a magical forest. But one day, the bears found a sacred book in the ruins of a church, which gave them knowledge to form their own civilization. The bears, evolving into “teddy bears”, wanted to cultivate the forest but this caused the unicorns to retaliate. In the end, the bears lost and were exiled from the forest. This all lead to an ongoing war between the unicorns and the bears, where the bears have started to believe that drinking the blood of the last unicorn will make God return to the forest.


In present time, we follow a troop of recruits including the twin brothers Gordi and Azulin (“Tubby” and “Bluey”). While Gordi is a chubby and gentle person, Azulin is narcissistic and filled with jealousy and rage, often picking fights with the other troop members. One day, the camp’s leaders send the troop into the forest to look for a missing squad, which leads them all into a beautiful but deathly place. Here, they do not only meet with the threat of the unicorns, but also the nature which they no longer feel accustomed to, and threats are everywhere, including amongst themselves.


Unicorn Wars is a 2022 Spanish-French animated splatter war film (yes, you read that right) and the second animated feature film by Alberto Vazquez. It is also based on a short, called Unicorn Blood (Sangre de Unicornio). While his first feature film, Birdboy (co-directed by Pedro Rivero) is more gloomy and downbeat, this one takes everything to the max with full-on splatter scenes and deaths by the dozens, all combined with absolutely beautiful visuals. The opening scene, where a lost unicorn is searching for its mother and comes upon the ruins of the old church which contains a shape-shifting monster, is brilliantly animated and gave me a little bit of Princess Mononoke-vibes. At this point I’ll assume that parents who put this movie on by mistake already got a clear warning that this ain’t no kids movie. And like in Birdboy, the characters who might appear to be simple in style are very full of life with detailed expressions. The colours are vibrant and makes everything quite captivating for the eyes, and even the gory scenes are very pretty in their own way. Yes, you also read that right.


While some might read the description of this movie at places where the gore is in main focus, they might end up thinking this is some kind of full-length Happy Tree Friends or something, but it’s not just all about gore and it’s oftentimes both dark and gritty. Not unlike Birdboy, the movie does have a lot of dark themes which includes not only the dark sides of war and propaganda, but also family issues, narcissism, and sibling jealousy. While Unicorn Wars is having more dark comedy elements and at times feels a little more lighthearted through some of its scenes, it becomes quickly obvious through all the graphic violence and the excessive extent to which the film actually takes it, that this is a dark and twisted anti-war tale where barely anyone is truly innocent, and the little innocence that exists is quickly corrupted or swiped away. Both Catholicism and war is loudly criticised here, and while Vazquez’s inspirations likely came from many things, he does seem to have an apparent affection for “war is hell” movies.


Unicorn Wars, with its enchanting visuals, gore and philosophical themes, is both gruesome in its violence but at the same time quite mesmerizing to watch. And it certainly does not hold back on the gore. There’s something rather fascinating about watching adorable anthropomorphized characters in such dark and edgy situations…like watching the Care Bears go into a bloody war with My Little Pony…


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Writer and director: Alberto Vázquez
Country & year:
Spain, France, 2022
Voice actors:
Jon Goiri, Jaione Insausti, Ramón Barea, Txema Regalado, Manu Heras, Gaizka Soria, Iker Diaz, Estívaliz Lizárraga, Pedro Arrieta, Alberto Vázquez, Rosa María Romay



Vanja Ghoul




Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (2015)

Birdboy: The Forgotten ChildrenOn an island inhabited by different talking animals, the building of a factory and its explosion caused the once thriving fishing community to become a devastated and barren place. Birdman, who once used to tend the island’s lighthouse and now appears to be struggling providing for himself and his son Birdboy, becomes suspected of trafficking drugs, and is eventually shot dead. Instead of drugs, however, they find a satchel on him which contains golden acorns.


Birdboy, growing up without his father and living alone, desperately tries to fight his inner demons by taking drugs which he buys from a piglet who owns a fishing boat. Meanwhile, Dinky, a young mouse who is having some kind of romantic relationship with Birdboy finds herself struggling after her father’s death, where her stepfather, a Christian fundamentalist, keeps controlling their family and constantly excoriate her for her so-called “misbehaviour”. Together with Sandra the rabbit and Little Fox, they plan to get away from the island, but need money for their escape. They’ve heard stories about the older brother of someone who is said to have left the island and now lives a happy life, and they are determined to get away themselves. Dinky also wants to persuade Birdboy to come with them.


Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (Psiconautas, los niños olvidados) aka Psychonauts, The Forgotten Children is an adult animated horror-drama film from 2015, written and directed by Alberto Vázquez and Pedro Rivero. In 2016 it won the Best Animated Feature price at the Goya Awards. It is based on a comic called Psiconautas by Vázquez, and works as a follow-up to their short film called Birdboy. And despite this movie starring talking animals, don’t expect for a second to find any kind of Looney Tunes vibes here, it’s a nihilistic coming-of-age story which is gloomy as hell but at the same time gorgeous to watch. The characters, despite appearing a bit simple, are brought to life with detailed expressions. The dark and macabre elements including drugs, addiction, violence, depression, the darkness within us and a rotten corrupted society in complete denial are all embraced in a way that turns it into something dark and decayed yet not bereft of beauty. While we follow Birdboy’s and Dinky’s adventures somewhat separately, we soon realize that despite all of Birdboy’s struggles, he’s actually maintaining a little isolated spot in a grotto, where he plants golden acorns which makes the little place grow and thrive like in the old days.


There are also some partly surrealistic scenes with a weird (and annoying) talking robot-clock, a bleeding Jesus doll and the demons constantly attacking Birdboy which are obvious metaphors for his anxiety/depression/troubles, aka “inner demons” which he tries to suppress with drugs (and we all know that such a strategy never works in the long run). Birdboy and Dinky, while both struggling with their own problems, each come off different in their ways of handling things. Dinky sees escape as the only option, while Birdboy, despite all his troubles, manages to create a small place in his life for growth and solace. While the world the film represents appears to be without hope, there is a message both within (and at the end) which clearly states that running away from problems isn’t the answer, and in order to attain happiness you can create and seek beauty from your current state. But, of course, Birdboy is pretty much the only character who manages this to some extent, as pretty much all the other characters are struggling with their own inner demons, fears and ailments (like the piglet, who has a bedridden mother struggling from addiction, which manifests itself as a talking spider, and Sandra the rabbit who keeps hearing voices inside her head, trying to force her to do terrible things). Vãzquez himself stated in an interview that the story itself is very much a metaphor about life, portraying the end of childhood as these kids have to face a new world. “The characters have to face a new world and they don’t like the world. They have to rebuild it again — that’s why the characters think about running away,” Vázquez explains. “In life you can’t run away that easily. And we have to come back to our island and fix it up a little bit.” Rivero also commented on the film’s dark themes, stating “I see life as just a mix — sometimes we have dark; sometimes we have light. Just because you work with darkness doesn’t mean your life is dark. It’s because these are themes that are interesting. It touches everybody. But it is not good to take it into your personal life.


Birdboy: The Forgotten Children is a passionately made and intellectually challenging “animation for grown-ups”, with its beautifully animated nihilism giving an impactful visual and emotional experience.


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Writers and directors: Pedro Rivero, Alberto Vázquez
Original title:
Psiconautas, los niños olvidados
Country & year:
Spain, Japan, 2015
Voice actors:
Andrea Alzuri, Eba Ojanguren, Josu Cubero, Félix Arcarazo, Jorge Carrero, Nuria Marín, Josu Varela, Jon Goiri, Maribel Legarreta, Iker Diez, Juan Carlos Loriz, Kepa Cueto



Vanja Ghoul