Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Anti-Blockbusters: Ink

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 Stars

InkThis odd little indy film is a bit hard to peg down, but here’s how I describe it: imagine what would happen if Terry Gilliam did a Disney film while taking large quantities of hallucinogenic drugs.

Sound pretty trippy? It is, but it’s worth your time.

In the movie, we are introduced to a group of warriors called the Storytellers who live on a different plane of reality and who provide humans with good dreams. This group also protects humanity against the nefarious Incubi, vain spirits who deliver nightmares and who wear screens over their faces that display a perpetual facade of happiness. A deformed being named Ink, neither Storyteller nor Incubi, kidnaps a young girl’s mind from the real world, despite strong resistance from the Storytellers, and plans to take her to the Incubi as an offering so that he can join their ranks. However, his drum that would open the portal is broken so he must take a longer, less-direct route. A Storyteller named Allel--who had tried to protect the girl from Ink--summons up a blind pathfinder named Jacob to track the creature down and free the girl. In the real world, the girl is in a comatose state and her grandfather asks her father--a high-powered workaholic businessman--to come and see her hoping this would help draw her out of her coma.

This movie comes from indy writer/producer/director Jamin Winans, and despite its left-field description, it actually delivers at its core a fairly standard story that Disney and other kid-friendly studios have covered many times before. We have the child with a work-aholic parent who spends very little time with his daughter and cannot fully connect with her. Then, she falls into trouble and ultimately the parent does the right thing and comes to her aid just in time to deliver a happy, feel-good ending. So if that’s the case, why did I give the movie such a high rating? Because Winans manages to take this very familiar premise and rework it well enough that he succeeds in providing a fresh spin on an old tale and what he delivers in the end is also anything but a kids’ story (in fact younger viewers might find it quite terrifying at times). And reworking a familiar tale is not in itself a bad thing, heck, most of Shakespeare’s works were inspired by stories that came from previous scribes. The trick is to take the familiar and make something new from that, and Ink does just that.

It gives us a pure fantasy story, despite its Terry Gilliam-like sci fi trappings, that introduces a bizarre dreamworld that seems ludicrous yet believable at the same time. And Winans had very little money to work with (only $250k according to Wikipedia), but he gets the most from his limited budget and he excels in creating a surreal, stylized world that comes to life without CGI-overdose. If I could complain about only one thing production-wise it would be the character Ink’s very fake, rubbery looking snout, but try to look past that minor detail to the film's better qualities. And it has many including the excellent performances and the nearly seamless blending of the surreal dreamworld with our own reality. And even though the story treads familiar ground, Winans vision and delivery make it feel like a completely new experience. Unlike the many mega-dollar bloatfests that dominate the theaters and rely heavily on their CGI-gams visuals to compensate for their tired copy and paste plots, Ink takes what has come before and breathes new life into it.

Just a note, though, that this movie may not be everybody’s cup of tea because of its bizarre, trippy juxtaposition of the fantasy dreamworld with reality. In fact, I found it somewhat inaccessible early on, but I stuck with it and was glad I did.

Buy Ink and Other Anti-Blockbusters on DVD and Blu-ray from

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