Ink (Jamin Winans, 2009): USA

Reviewed by Linda Schad. Viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Jamin Winans’s Ink is a dark, live-action Sci-Fi/ Fantasy/Action/Thriller that takes us on a surreal journey into parallel worlds, where reality and fantasy mingle, dreams and nightmares co-exist, and where loving guardian storytellers do battle with evil incubi for the souls of unsuspecting sleepers.

Like Alice, in Alice in Wonderland, little eight-year-old Emma (Quinn Huncher) falls asleep and awakens in a strange world populated with unearthly creatures. But instead of following a white rabbit down the garden path, Emma gets kidnapped by a mysterious, mercenary monster named “Ink,” who looks very much like a male version of the ugly, wicked witch from Disney’s 1937 animated rendering of Snow White, and who leads her down through urban blight to what end, we do not know.

Gradually, we begin to understand that Ink’s mission is to deliver Emma’s innocent soul into the unholy, sinister clutches of the evil Incubi (think Brazil), and that Emma’s father, John (Chris Kelly), who had abandoned his motherless child in pursuit of earthly riches, is wholly responsible for the grief and wickedness occurring within both these worlds. Thus, the sins of the father are visited upon the child.

When all efforts fail to find and return Emma, the Storytellers begin to gather their forces. Led by a mystical blind pathfinder, Jacob (Jeremy Make), the dream guardians, like avenging angels, valiantly attempt to save Emma from a fate worse than death–the loss of her soul. Emma’s father must now face and come to terms with the destructive consequences of his personal issues that are having a negative impact within both worlds. This is a modern version of an ancient allegorical tale about those who are trapped in between good and evil, and about redemption.

Jamin Winans is a hot, new, up-and-coming filmmaker to watch. For Ink, he wrote the screenplay, directed and edited the film, composed its original music score, and co-produced with wife Kiowa K. Winans and assistant producer, Laura Wright–all on a shoestring budget. Shot entirely in and around Denver, Colorado, with a mostly unknown cast and crew of locals, this film is precisely what comes to mind when one says, “Indie.” But do not let the Indie label make you think the production value on this film suffers in any way.

Although the acting could be a bit more polished, and the narrative a bit less quirky, complicated and at times difficult to follow, Ink is well worth your effort, if for no other reason than to drink in the splendid cinematography of Jeff Pointer. I kid you not: there are breath-taking black and white images, particularly those shot in the woods outside of Denver, which, if lifted out from this footage as individual frames, would easily rival any of Ansel Adams’s famous nature photographs. This is a must-see, must-have film. Be sure to check out the film’s trailer, currently playing on the Internet.

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