I really do hate that I have to do this. A small indie that got no proper distribution and actually found financial success through exposure from internet piracy is not the kind of film that deserves a negative review. It’s impressive enough that the film got made and completed, why should I tear it down? It’s already the underdog. But the simple truth is, Ink, despite its ambition, is not a good movie.
The film involves some weird dream world and a lot of weird sci-fi/fantasy elements. There is a potentially emotional drama at the core of it, but there are also a lot of special effects and fight scenes. The problem is that none of it actually connects. The drama would be involving had it been written well. It might be easier to connect to the characters if the acting was any good. The special effects would be impressive as more than just examples of low-budget ingenuity if only the film had a good visual style.
Actually, the visual style is the first thing that had me down on the film. There is no reason for any film to look this bad, and a low budget is not an excuse. Evil Dead was made for no money, and it isn’t the most polished looking film, but it has a really nice, gritty quality to it. Ink suffers from MirrorMask syndrome. Instead of attempting to design a compelling look for the film, the director chooses to blow out the whites and give every shot an awful soft-focus effect. It’s awful and distracting.
The next problem with the film is what I’m going to call “the film student effect”. It’s non-linear, it attempts to deliver exposition through “showing” at every possible step, and maintains and ambiguity for much of the storyline. This might sound good, except that it all still feels paint-by-numbers. It’s non-linear, not because it needs to be, but because, well, why not? The bits of expository action, especially at the beginning, go on for too long and treat the audience like we would not have understood what the characters were doing had they not shown at least five or six examples. And the ambiguity? Nothing but laziness. If I still don’t understand anything about the rules of the world or why the characters are doing what they’re doing halfway through the film then we have a problem. That problem could be mitigated if the writing or the actors provided and easy entry point for me to relate, but nope, it’s all too amateurish.
Ink is not a good film. I totally understand why people would be impressed by such a low budget film have such ambition, but ambition only gets you so far. If the film does not deliver a good story with interesting characters then it’s all for nothing, really. Such is the case with Ink. I applaud writer-director Jamin Winans for getting the film made, for getting some quality effects work done, and even for embracing the underground distribution the film had to go through to get in front of an audience. But that’s really all I can do.