Film: Ink ****
UK Release date: Out Now
Running time: 107 mins
Director: Jamin Winans
Starring: Christopher Soren Kelly, Quinn Hunchar, Jessica Duffy, Jennifer Batter
Reviewer: Adam Wing
It’s hardly surprising that I’d never heard of Jamin Winans’ mind-bending sci-fi thriller before it dropped through my letterbox; Ink’s birth was anything but typical. None of the big studios picked up the film for theatrical and home distribution in the US, so Double Edge Films pitched the movie directly to independent cinemas, DVD, Blu-ray and online distribution by themselves.
It was a move that worked, because Ink became one of the most downloaded movies on file sharing torrent sites - 400,000 times in a single week - exposing the film to a much larger audience. The UK release is brought to you by 4 Digital Media. Prepare yourself for alternate timelines and dreamlike sensibilities, because if the film achieves nothing else, Ink will at least twist your perception of reality.
John (Chris Kelly) is a businessman in a hurry to get to his car, stressed out and somewhat distraught, he’s completely oblivious to the truck that’s heading his way. As he falls unconscious, he dreams of playing with his daughter Emma (Quinn Hunchar). Don’t worry though; things are about to take a turn down Disturbia Avenue. Warriors called Storytellers exist in an alternate version of reality, providing us with the good dreams we have while we sleep. Then there are the Incubi, artificial beings that fashion nightmares and take us to places we don’t want to go.
That’s when we first meet Ink - a lone drifter who appears to do just that; but after a frantic battle with the Storytellers, he kidnaps Emma from her home and leaves her physical body in a comatose state. However, the drifter's drum gets damaged in the fight, and without the code - a short piece performed on the drum - he can’t open a portal to the realm for which John’s daughter was intended. Still with me? Good. The three Storytellers responsible for Emma, Allel (Jennifer Batter), Gabe (Eme Ikwuakor) and Sarah (Shelby Malone), along with a blind Pathfinder named Jacob (Jeremy Make), search for a way to bring Emma out of her coma. A fourth ally, a Storyteller named Liev (Jessica Duffy), attempts to dissuade Ink from delivering the girl to the Incubi in order to become one himself.
Ink is a high-concept thriller that weaves seamlessly between the conscious and subconscious. Combining the nightmarish visuals of Dark City with the mind-bending complexities of Donnie Darko, Jamin Winans’ sci-fi thriller is unlike anything you have seen in a while. It’s a low budget affair, but one that makes the most of its funding. The visuals are stunning throughout, from the special effects to the costume design, and Jamin Winans incorporates original ideas at every turn. The fight scenes are tightly choreographed, even if the editing is a little too frantic at times, but the way in which the real world rebuilds itself after they come into contact with it is beautifully realised.
Winans successfully infuses a dreamlike quality, not to mention some of the most creative characters of the fantasy genre, and the elements combine to compelling effect. Performances are stronger than you might expect, and the characters are well drawn. Chris Kelly impresses as the conflicted father and businessman, and Jeremy Make possesses more than enough charisma to carry off the role of blind pathfinder Jacob. Jessica Duffy injects warmth into her role of Storyteller, and the relationship she builds with Emma is heart warming.
Despite these factors, Ink still falls short of perfect filmmaking. The choppy editing style is a little too chaotic at times, and the action sequences occasionally feel out of place. The films convoluted structure will alienate and confuse as many as it impresses, and the dialogue isn’t as creative as the inventive cinematography.
Ink falls short of greatness then, but only just, and both Jamin and Kiowa K. Winans (costume and art direction) are names to keep an eye on. For the most part Ink feels like a breath of fresh air, successfully combining inventive special effects with intriguing concepts and design. More than that, Ink is a humanistic tale. Telling a story that everybody can relate to, even if you do have to overlook the more fantastical forays from time to time - we’re still in the realm of science fiction after all. If you can overlook the limitations you’re in for a spellbinding journey that demands to be seen time and time again.
It’s not always an easy watch, but in the end, the world of Ink comes together like the words on a page. Ambitious, dreamlike and never less than compulsive, Ink writes its name at the very top of Independent filmmaking. Never heard of the film? You have now.