by Jay Seaver
SCREENED AT THE 2010 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: The makers and marketers of "Ink" are a little bit too ready to call it a cult classic, although given time, I could see it getting there. It's got a better-than-decent urban fantasy set-up, a few extremely impressive visuals, and so much well-meaning philosophy that it might be best enjoyed in an altered state.Dreaming is the original altered state, and Ink tells us that dreams, at least the good ones, are brought to us by Storytellers, spirits who appear in the world around us as we sleep. Their opposite numbers are Incubi, the bringers of nightmares. On this night, though, something sinister is afoot - an active and creative little girl, Emma (Quinn Hunchar), has been targeted by Incubus-in-training Ink, and when her Storyteller Allel (Jennifer Batter) fails to stop Emma's spirit form from being kidnapped, she is assigned a blind Pathfinder, Jacob (Jeremy Make), to help bring Emma's estranged father John (Chris Kelly) to her side. Fortunately, Ink has lost the means to bring Emma to the Incubus Assembly, and thus has to find a pair of codes, which gives another Storyteller, Liev (Jessica Duffy), a chance to try and convince Ink to let Emma go.
"Has a couple more eye-popping bits than your average indie fantasy."
Considering that Ink is a true independent - self-financed and made by a filmmaker in the Denver, Colorado area - it does some really cool stuff visually. The initial introduction of the Storytellers, for instance, is probably a simple enough effect but still looks and sounds pretty nifty, and the moments which follow are suitably mysterious enough to keep the audience intrigued. The Incubi have a simple, yet unsettling design - men with plastic sheets in front of their heads that flatten the faces behind and cast them a sickly yellow, and searchlight eyes that blot out the rest of their faces when the sheets are removed. And the action scene as Allel and her allies attempt to keep Ink from kidnapping Emma is so clever and well-implemented that one might be surprised to find it in a small, independent film, as the physical things that these beings smash reform instantly, leaving no evidence of a spiritual battle in the world.
The trouble with a scene like that is that you can't help but suspect that the movie has peaked early when it's over. There are another two impressive set pieces, but they're not quite so amazing as the first, although they would probably be quite eye-catching in another independent fantasy that didn't have the abduction sequence to compare them to. Even setting the action elements aside, the moments linking them are a little bit of a let-down; the time spent on John's work is profoundly uninteresting, and presentation of his story is too choppy for us to really get the proper impact of how he met and lost his wife, and then lost custody of Emma to his in-laws. Emma, whom we're introduced to as a loud and boisterous kid, winds up a fairly passive kidnap victim.
How much of that is filmmaker Jamin Winans's writing and direction versus the cast is something I'm not sure of. Chris Kelly and Quinn Hunchar both have quite a few good moments, but also have their share where they are unconvincing. Jeremy Make is kind of annoying as Jacob, and while I appreciate that that is part of the character, he never comes off as particularly otherworldly, even with electrical tape covering his eyes. Jennifer Batter, on the other hand, nails Allel as a thoroughly believable dream warrior, tough and kind and human despite being something else as well. Eme Ikwuakor and Shelby Malone are right in tune as her allies; the movie is at its best when this group is front and center. Jessica Duffy's Liev is the spiritual one who sees good in all, even Ink, and she does a fine job of not making that an annoying stock character.Watching "Ink", there's little doubt in my mind that Jamin Winans has a whole bunch of talent, but may be stretched a little thin trying to do everything (Jamin Winans is credited as writer, director, producer, editor, and composer; another Winans is credited with sound, costumes, and art direction). Even taking that into account, he does very well on a project that is probably insanely ambitious for an independent film, and has made something whose best scenes alone make it well worth a watch.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=20341&reviewer=371
originally posted: 02/15/10 02:18:49