I like urban fantasy, a lot. But it appears to be a difficult genre to translate to the silver screen. It seems that creating an elaborate modern fantasy world is just too much trouble for a mere 90 minutes adventure. Ink is one of the rare few that dares to tackle the genre full on, and does a marvelous job at that. All hail to director Winans for taking the leap.
If you haven't heard of the film before, it's because Winans has had quite some trouble getting it distributed. A little strange considering its strength and merits, especially when you know this is one of those no-budget affairs. I would've loved to see this on the big screen, but as it is I'll just settle for the DVD. I just hope Winans has better luck with his next film.
Winans created his world from scratch, avoiding the easy way of adapting just another comic book series. He sculpts his tale in modern-day society somewhere between the worlds of the living and the dead. Several fractions exist within his universe, all of them well-developed but not explained in full. They live within the reality of the film, but the film itself never sees it as an obligation to explain their motives and being in complete detail. Not to everyone's liking I presume, but I enjoyed this patch of mystery a lot.
The story centers around the kidnapping of a little girl. She is kidnapped by an Ink, a dark creatures that lives in the shadow of our world and comes at night. He works for the Incubi, a group that brings nightmares. Up against the Incubi are the Storytellers, bringers of dreams and happiness. Their mission is to protect the people from the Ink, if they happen to have malicious intentions. This might sound like I've explained half of the movie already, but rest assured, this is just the setting. The story itself might not be too innovativy (battle of good against evil and all), but the setting sure is wildly original.
Winans has little budget but decided to make the most of it. He applies a very bold style that is somewhat reminiscent of Toy Reanimator. Bright and screaming colors in overexposed settings, sharp and energetic editing and pretty wild camera angles. The lack of funds for expensive CG is hidden by the bold style and allows Winans to do some very cool things with the styling of the inhabitants of his world. The Incubi in particular are pure genius, with their weird face masks distorting their facial expressions.
The soundtrack too is captivating. Maybe a tad too in your face, but it features some genuinely likable music enhancing the atmosphere a great deal. Sound effects too are strong and flow very well with the editing, creating a very solid audiovisual experience. Acting on the other hand is a little below par, especially the role of the father could've used a better actor. Only a minor issue as the acting felt hardly as a priority in this film, but it does manage to leave a nagging feeling through some of the scenes.
The film follows a rather predictable path, twist included. Mind you, it's one of those semi-twists where the audience is quite aware of the facts without being explicitly told. Predictability aside, the film's reality is so elaborate and vast that every scene still has plenty of creativity to enjoy. The visual bombardment alone is enough to warrant a viewing, though in the end that's just part of the fun.
Winans lack of budget does show a little. The styling of Ink could've been a bit better, some of the characters might've deserved an extra-grade actor and the visual trickery is sometimes a little too bold in order to conceal its shortcomings. Only little points of critique that Winans can easily get rid of with a bigger budget and a little more financial security. Ink shows enormous potential, executed well beyond what anyone could expect considering the limitations. A little gem that will one day find its audience and is destined to become a cult hit, much like Dark City and Delicatessen.
The trailer is rather spoilerific, but gives a good indication of what is to come.