Original movies, I mean the sort of movie you’ve never seen before, are really hard to come by. All the good ideas have been mined by now. Everything is derivative of everything else and when you maintain a healthy review pile for a blog specializing in exploitation, you forget how delicious a true original is because all you watch are movies that ape the tropes of other, more popular movies. So put yourself in my shoes and try to imagine that rush of elation that comes with the rarest of finds. I can’t quite explain it but it’s a moving experience. For a fan of film in general, it’s almost like religious ecstasy. I don’t use this sort of praise lightly, either. I’m talking about those most elusive of birds here.
A film of this type doesn’t have to be perfect, either, mind you. It can be a flawed picture as long as it presents me with something I have never considered before. With the cost of filmmaking dropping, thanks to computers and their increasing availability, you’re starting to see more and more of these interesting new indies cropping up left and right. It doesn’t diminish the thrill, either. Considering the declining cost of filmmaking, you’re starting to see more and more genre movies that studios wouldn’t touch in a million years and for all the wrong reasons. Fillms like Sleep Dealer and Paranormal Activity are products of this new indie wave that is building momentum slowly. This is no indie boom like the mid-90’s when Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino burst on to the scene and took Hollywood by storm with their entirely commando approach to making movies. The new wave is moving slowly and keeping its head down and because of their carefully controlled pace, many of them are sneaking right by you. I can’t let this happen with Ink. You need to see it.
What you don’t know about the night time world: When you go to sleep one of two things may happen. Beautiful, exotic and vaguely steampunky people emerge from the dream world and give you pleasant dreams. The other possibility is that horrific men in black suits, faces obscured by plates of glass that distort their features come to you and give you nightmares. These are the Storytellers and the Incubi, two races of people who inhabit the dream world, that exists parallel to our own. There are other people, too, and I’ll get to that, but for right now you need to know that Emma is taken prisoner in the night by the demon, Ink, who wants to offer her as a sacrifice to the Incubi, in order to become one of them. For the moment, he is a drifter, a tortured, distored being in the afterlife who has no affiliation with either side. Persuing him is Allel, Emma’s Storyteller guardian, Jacob a blind pathfinder who sees by listening to the natural beat of the world and can influence and interrupt it to meet his needs as well, and Liev, a supremely powerful Storyteller who falls in as Ink’s prisoner. It’s up to these people to thwart the Incubi and find a way to get Emma’s estranged, workaholic father, legally stripped of custody after his wife’s death thanks to excessive drinking, an 80 hour work week and a history of coke abuse, back to her bedside at the hospital where she lays in a coma. Sounds complicated? Actually, it is. But only a little.
One of the reasons you don’t find movies like Ink often is because movies don’t have the kind of time it takes to build a whole world and its own mythology like Ink does. Few writers posses the kind of skills that Ink’s writer/director, Jamin Winans, has to move the plot along at a brisk pace while creating an entire sandbox to place its own sprawling fairytale in. Ink doesn’t take existing folklore and weave it into a plot about a father saving what’s left of his family, it creates it from the ground up; from scratch. This gorgeous urban fantasy makes it look easy, too. Nearly half the running time is without dialog, subtle suggestions of the rules of the game at work in real time, as you watch it unfold. It tells you enough while suggesting a whole lot more and doesn’t waste time getting in your face to spell everything out to you. It does what good entertainment is supposed to do. It stimulates your brain and lets your imgination connect the dots based on the ammunition you have been provided with.
Ink also has a stunning visual style that looks nothing like any movie I’ve ever seen. Its beautiful special effects put you in the dream world, placing the setting under a soft, surreal filter to clue you in on when you’re watching something going on inside someone’s head or on the other side of the night world, while casting the actual real world in harsh contrasting tones in case you had forgotten how much reality sucks. The Incubi, with their constantly smiling faces hidden by shields of glass, are some of the most terrifying creatures put to film. Practically every shot of Winans’ film is a feast for the eyes, though. Ink is proof positive that effects heavy indie movies are not such a rare commodity anymore.Ink’s effects, though, front and center in every shot of the movie, are the means by which the film’s big ideas are best communicated and the entire picture is propelled into orbit by a burning shot of creativity and innovation, best displayed in a scene where Jacob influences reality by interrupting the rhythm of the world.
The film falters in the casting, occasionally. Chris Kelly, who plays Emma’s deeply haunted father, is a bit wooden and his interpretation of a man whose life is defined by greed and despair is a caricature of the workaholic and the casting of some of the Storytellers is weakened by some awkward moments in the dialog. The film’s big twist in the third act is also fairly predictable and strikes a chord with the viewer as a deus ex machina device to wrap things up but the sheer mass of the emotions going into the story, a series of absolutely exciting fight scenes as the Storytellers fight the Incubi and a climax that is absolutely crushing outline Ink as a film that must be rescued from relative obscurity and brought to the masses. It’s brimming with huge ideas, beautiful photograpy and special effects and strikes a natural balance between its effects and character building. It has a few cracks on the surface but what lies beneath a few of the problems that commonly dog low budget indie pictures is a film rich in originality and beauty. Make it a priority. See Ink. Now.