The Underrated: Ink

What the hell happened to this one? In an age bereft of intelligent philosophical science fiction/ fantasy, unless you count Avatar’s infantile save the whales nonsense, it strikes me as absolutely criminal the treatment this film received. I’d never even heard of it until about 5 minutes before I turned it on, and as a result, I’m seriously considering buying it on Blu-Ray. It’s no hyperbole for me to say that Ink is probably the best film I’ve seen this year. I’m not exaggerating, this is a touching, deep and clever film made by a film-school dropout on an absolute shoestring. This is the film that only managed to get DVD distribution because of piracy (according to imdb, anyhow), and I’d like to thank every sticky-fingered internet nerd out there for that. Well done, everyone, now if you can turn your hands to stamping U2 out, then the internet really will have worked wonders.

You’ll have to bear with me on the plot summary, because Ink is an incredibly complex film. The mythology is that there’s an eternal war being waged between the Storytellers and the Incubi. The Storytellers are responsible for the good dreams that people have, and the Incubi deal with nightmares and negativity. We’re introduced to John, played by Christopher Kelly. John is  a capitalist pig of the highest order. He’s failing dismally as a human being, having become alienated from his daughter Emma(Quinn Huchar) in the aftermath of his wife’s death. She’s fallen into a coma, and he’s closing the biggest and most important deal of his career to date. In the meantime, within the fully realised Dream World (where the majority of the film takes place) and she’s been kidnapped by a twisted and mutilated demon “Ink” who is attempting to take her to the incubus gathering (for reasons never revealed). The Storyteller Liev (Jessica Duffy) is attempting to divert Ink from his goal, while another group of Storytellers led by Jennifer Batter’s Allel including a weird “pathfinder” (a blind guy that can follow “the beat”) named Jacob are attempting to work on John to save him from a no-doubt tragic end. They’re also tasked with waking Emma- something that they believe they need John to do. John, however, has serious problems because he’s being plagued by an incubus when awake. I won’t go into any more detail, because to do so will seriously spoil the film.

What this amounts to, is basically a three stranded story. There’s Ink, Liev and Sarah as one strand navigating the Dream world, then there’s John in the REal World(the events involving him play out of sequence, something that adds to the ethereal atmosphere of the film) and then there is the group of Storytellers trying to save John’s bacon. As the three prongs come together in the finale, it becomes terribly sad while simultaneously being edge-of-the-seat exciting.

That it is so touching and exciting is entirely down to the actors. Kelly is superb as John- he’s a damaged person, but manages to maintain sympathy- the scene arguing with Emma’s grandfather is fantastic: “So I’m a person now?”. He’s clearly plagued by the whispering Incubus (when we see him in meetings and things, we also hear the comments of the demon), and it is incredibly obvious that his life is travelling down the wrong path. Duffy is also great as Liev, being simultaneously playful, touching, sympathetic. Nevertheless, the real revelation is Hunchar as Emma. Wow- this is a fantastic child performance. Part of the reason is that the casting is so good. When asked what he thought it was about, Kelly waffled on about “Redemption” and high-philosophy. He’s right it is at least partially about redemption. However, when asked about what her favourite moment was, Hunchar said “playing with imaginary animals, because that’s what I do when I play” leaving Kelly aghast and staring at her like she was an alien. Obviously, he had a real disconnect with the child that mirrors John’s inability to relate to his daughter. Nice work.

Ink was made for only $250,000 and you can’t tell. It looks dramatically more expensive than that. The cinematography here is brilliant, so credit to Jeff Pointer. He’s conjured an ethereal atmosphere to the dream sequences, and clever use of different filters allows us ot witness the same scene from different points of view, and be totally aware of which realm you are currently witnessing. The direction in general is actually really strong- with the cause-and-effect car crash conducted by the Pathfinder being one of the most spectacular pieces of film-making that I’ve seen in a while. This is a big and complicated film, but Jamin Winans (also writer and on music) doesn’t allow it to get away from him- the final sequence in particular with the intercut fighting could have been a confusing mess, but actually works a treat.

Which brings me round to the special effects. Obviously on $250,000, they had to be pretty limited, but there are some spectacular effects on display here- the CGI incubus effect, for example, leaping to mind. I cannot honestly believe that this film cost so little to make. It’s astonishing and an incredible achievement. The fighting itself is supremely well done: The Storytellers’ final stand attempting to hold the Incubi away from John is an epic scene, truly exciting to watch and not confusing in the slightest (which it easily could have been).

Ink is a cracking film, but what it’s really big on is atmosphere. Winans did the music and has an other-worldly, trip-hop quality that works a treat with the cinematography. This is a haunting film made with a lot of heart, and wonderfully makes you accept the rules it operates in through the atmosphere it creates. It never explains why the Storytellers place good dreams in your head, or why the Pathfinder can hear the beat, these things are taken as read- you have to accept it for the film to function. It’s a credit to how successful the atmosphere is that the film does work, drawing the viewer in and allowing the events to unfold in an air of transcendence. Personally, I like that it doesn’t explain these things and don’t consider it a flaw that you have to allow yourself to accept the dreamworld for the film to be successful.

Overall, I thoroughly recommend this film, and if I ever applied a chang rating to these underrated reviews then I’d seriously be considering 4 out of 4. There are a couple of minor flaws to Ink, but the atmosphere is so heady, the cinematography is so good, and the performances brilliant, that I found it astonishingly easy to ignore them. I honestly haven’t been as impressed by a film as this one in a long time, and I genuinely hope that everyone involved goes on to bigger and better things. This is a truly astonishing effort, and one that I will certainly be revisiting in a couple of weeks.

As soon as the Blu-Ray arrives.

Until next time,


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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

60 responses to “The Underrated: Ink”

  1. Jarv says :

    Two things that weren’t clear here:

    1) I do like Avatar

    2) Ink was unable to get proper distribution UNTIL it was downloaded- it was hit so many times that it was picked up afterwards. I made that look like piracy impeded it, whereas the internets facilitated the full DVD release.

  2. Droid says :

    1) Avatar is awesome, but intelligent scifi it’s not. It’s purely space opera.

    2) Piracy is the way forward.

    3) This flick sounds good. I’ll have to check it out.

    • Jarv says :

      Agree. Avatar is awesome, but it’s not exactly deep. I was having a dig at those fuckers that pretend that it’s profound in some way. It certainly is not,.

      Piracy FTW. Double Edge films actually came out and thanked pirates for this. Ink would never have had a proper release without it.

      This is well worth checking out. I was a bit confused at the start, then it dropped into place for me at the fight between the Storytellers and Ink early on. I’ve tried not to spoil here. Seriously recommended.

  3. DocPazuzu says :

    Will be checking this out very soon thanks to your sterling review.

    As for piracy, I had a long and tedious debate with a one-time talkbacker called gigglingfist about it in one of the Wolverine TBs. I said that I personally wouldn’t download a rough cut of a movie which hadn’t even been released yet but that I would most certainly download movies which have never been given a commercial release or which were no longer available in any commercial format. He, being either a lawyer or studio bean counter, countered most viciously that according to the (U.S) law “theft is theft” even if no financial loss for anyone has ever occurred. He went so far as to say that downloading, say, a movie aired only once on TV 30 years ago which was taped and then ripped to digital form was as much theft as downloading Wolverine.

    The tool then went on to dare me to name one instance where piracy has resulted in any kind of commercial release or financial gain for the film’s creators. After naming several, including Uncle George’s original Star Wars versions, he suddenly vanished.

    • Droid says :

      I checked out a sample of that roughcut of Wolverine, just for interest sake. I don’t know how anyone could have watched it and accurately critiqued the movie. It was all blue screen, at least from the sample I saw, which was the end fight.

      • DocPazuzu says :

        The movie did turn out to be crap, but it just struck me as an incredibly douchy thing to do, to download a rough cut and use that as a basis for crushing a film that people had already made their minds up to hate. Cheap points. I’d have no problem downloading it now, though, except I have no interest in the film.

      • Jarv says :

        I haven’t seen Wolverine and have no desire to waste Bandwidth on it. See also X-Men First Class.

        It does strike me as monumentally dickish to crush a film with a massive amount of green screen stuff based on an early non-fx cut.

      • Droid says :

        I enjoyed the movie on a purely dumbhouse level. No, it’s not a good movie. But it does have a certain entertainment value that I respond to. And seeing as though I don’t give two shits about X-Men or the funnybooks, I was able to have fun with what is essentially an 80’s action flick.

        Here’s one for the nerds to get upset about…

        Wolverine > First Class

      • Jarv says :



        How do you rank the X-men films?

      • Droid says :

        X-Men… That’s a tough one, because I don’t really think any of them are much better than the other. But I’d probably go…

        1. X-Men 2… 2 Changs – The best actual film.
        2. Wolverine… 2 Changs – The most entertaining film.
        3. X-Men 1… 1 1/2 Changs – Far too much set up, not enough action.
        4. X-Men 3… 1 1/2 Changs – Far too busy, not enough story.
        5. X-Men: First Class… 1 Chang – Two good performances, one good set piece. Awful second half filled with crap, annoying characters you don’t give a shit about. The chick who plays young mystique is a terrible actress. At least in this. I’d describe her as wooden, but that would be an insult to trees. The giant blue panda bear is hilariously bad.

      • Jarv says :

        The giant blue panda bear is hilariously bad.

        Ohmigod! That sounds awesome.

    • Jarv says :

      There are quite a few. I see absolutely nothing wrong with Downloading a film that I can’t get in any legitimate form- see Deadly Prey, Split Second or Hell Comes to Frogtown for examples.

      This I’d never even heard of. I only put it on because it was in Lovefilm’s “Recommendation of the week” thing- and it was so good that if I had downloaded it, I can categorically state that I’d be buying it anyway.

      I’m watching it again later in the week, because Mrs. Jarv came in on the cause and effect Car Crash- which is a superb bit of film, swore at me for subjecting her to crap when she could have been watching this, stomped off and said to me “finish it if you want, but we’re watching it again later”. She did the same with Streets of Fire.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah thats how I feel about The Escapiest, which I think I can only get through Amazon which I don’t think is a proper venue. If I can’t rent it or buy it at Wal Mart it may as well never been released on DVD.

        REDLINE I’M LOOKING AT YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. just pillow talk says :

    Yup, with this review, you’ve got me interested in this flick as well.
    I’ll have to add it to the ‘ol queue.

  5. Bartleby says :

    YES! I wrote this up ages ago when it first arrived! I’ve been singing it’s prasies since and it made my best of 2009 for ambition.

    Great writeup, Jarv!

    Mine was here. Should republish it at PCN soon:

  6. Bartleby says :

    Oh, it is on instant….that will be this week’s Netflix Instant review…I’ll also link over to yours here Jarv…

    • Jarv says :


      This is a stunning film. Knocked me right on my ass. Glad someone else has seen it.

      • Jarv says :

        That’s a really good review- it’s a bit more spoilery than mine, but I don’t think that matters in this film- because it’s so complex. Nevertheless:

        When the Storytellers and the Incubi have a massive Matrix-style cat and mouse battle within the shadow-drenched corridors of a real world hospital, while John wanders about looking for his daughter, unaware of the war around him, Winan captures one of the most kinetic and intriguing portraits of good vs. evil that I’ve recently seen.

        This, by the way, is spot on (as is the word “ambient” for the soundtrack. That’s what I was looking for). Also, not to forget that it’s cut in with Ink and the girl and the revelation of the film. I was almost bouncing up and down in my seat screaming at John on the screen while the war wages on the other dream levels around him. What’s superb is that the Storytellers know they can’t win and are trying to buy time for the Pathfinder to make it to the beacon. It’s a fucking brutal sequence- and could easily have been a mess. I haven’t been that gripped by a film in ages.

        The other thing that is a stunning moment and jams the emotional heart into the film is the “good” life montage that Allel gives him- up until that point we’ve only seen the incubus’ stuff with him, and we realise that he isn’t an arsehole, just a normal man making bad decisions.

        Fuck man, I’m looking forward to watching this again. Ink joins Centurion, Solomon Kane, Outlander and others as genuinely robbed by the idiotic system movies.

      • koutchboom says :

        Heheheh OHHH INK I had been going on about this film when I first heard about it, Echo saw it kept telling me to watch it and I’ve just been to lazy to. Glad someone else finally watched it.

        One of these days Alice I’ll do a Ink/Eden Log double feature….once Netflix instant doesn’t suck total ass.

      • Jarv says :

        Ink is a much better film than Eden Lake. I don’t think it would work with a double like that either. I was trying to think what I would double it with.

      • koutchboom says :

        LOG with a capital OG. Eden LOG.

      • Jarv says :

        Whoops. Never heard of that.

      • just pillow talk says :

        I don’t know when the fuck Solomon Kane is going to get grabbed by netflix, still need to see that one.

      • Jarv says :

        I don’t think Lovefilm have it either. Scandalous.

      • Bartleby says :

        Something else small about Ink, and perhaps from a different perspective, but it actually nails that hope/redemption/repentance angle that so many cheap and ponderous ‘religious’ or ‘Christian’ pics try for. Not that this is one of those, it isnt’ (the opening scene has John screaming Fuck for about a minute)but it proves that a story about these themes can be done if you aren’t up on your high horse trying to preach a screed.

      • Jarv says :

        Yes, but it has to pull some narrative pyrotechnics to do it, and can only then pull it off within the confines of the dream world. I couldn’t work out how to discuss this in the review without a *MASSIVE SPOILER* so large it would only fit on the side of GIANT PIG.

        Basically, it can be done, but it ain’t easy- even when you’ve a dream world to play with.

  7. ThereWolf says :

    Read about ‘Ink’ only a few days ago and stuck it on my Lovefilm list – I was just unconsciously adding films in there. ‘Ink’ sounded different.

    Very much looking forward to seeing it now.

    Nice one, Jarv.

  8. redfishybluefishy says :

    Wow, haven’t been here in ages and lo and behold I drop in to hear of a great movie. This sounds right up my alley. I’m so intrigued it’s bumping all others to be on my watch list for this coming weekend.

    But… tonight, and truly why I dropped in since it is so highly regarded here, my neighbour has loaned me his copy of Bitch Slap. 🙂

    Can’t wait…

    • Jarv says :

      Hi fishy-

      Drop round more often then!


      In all honesty, this is a cracking film- really first rate.

      Enjoy Bitch Slap, just make sure your irony dial is turned up to high.

    • ThereWolf says :

      Fishy, it’s very possible I’m the only one on here who doesn’t rate ‘Bitch Slap’ at all.

      Mind you, I don’t think my irony dial was even switched on, never mind turned up.

  9. redfishybluefishy says :

    Okay, Bitch Slap is pretty cheesy, but it did have some funny moments. High art it is not, but the fact that it doesn’t take itself seriously makes it work. I think my favorite part of the whole thing was the opening credits. Well, that and the ridiculous out-of-the-blue water frolicking.

    I also think I want to read that book, “Slutty Bitches in Post-Feminist America”. It could be enlightening.

    Yes, wolfie, you may be the only one who hasn’t heralded it as a must watch. 🙂

    INK is on my agenda this weekend as your review has me itching to watch it. thanks for the head’s up on it!

  10. tombando says :

    Xmen First Klass bored me silly. (I preferred Ratner’s to it). Go go Power Rangers!

  11. redfishybluefishy says :

    wow. just finished watching Ink and LOVED it. it’s really rather beautiful. ‘made with a lot of heart’… you got that right. thanks, jarv. i may never have known about it without your review. 🙂

  12. ThereWolf says :

    $250,000… Goes a long way when you’ve got bags of imagination.

    ‘Ink’ is a brilliant film. As mentioned, it’s bursting with heart. I had a little emotional moment there, at the end.

    I think my favourite part was when the Pathfinder was ‘influencing’ the actions of various folk which leads to the accident, he’s like a conductor orchestrating his symphony. Superb.

    Not sure about the big schnozz on Ink though…

    I’ll be having the blu-ray as well.

    • Jarv says :

      Indeed- I think that’s my favourite bit as well, although I did love the triple pronged ending. Fan-fucking-tastic film.

      Can’t wait for the Blu Ray to arrive.

      • ThereWolf says :

        The blu-ray appears to be ‘unavailable’.

        There is an import version but I’ve not got a hacked player. I guess I’ll have to wait & hope…

        The ending is great. That image of the chick holding back the hordes from getting at the kid in the hospital bed & her dad is particularly powerful.

        The grinning, screen-faced incubus are superbly realised – made me think of ‘Brazil’ for some reason, or just generally Gilliamesque…

  13. docpazuzu says :

    Well, it only took six years but I finally got around to seeing Ink. I had avoided it for a long time for reasons which elude me, but today, while home from work sick, I decided to give the blu-ray a spin. I’m glad I did because I was completely blown away by it. The story, the compelling characters, the complex narrative the sheer imagination on display was incredible. Two thing were immediately apparent:

    1) The filmmakers didn’t have pot to piss in, relatively speaking.

    2) They didn’t let this get in the way and stuck to their insanely ambitious guns guns right to the end.

    It was exciting, unpredictable (up to a point), imaginative, funny and very, very moving. You know — pretty much everything that 90% of all genre movies lack these days.

    Top notch.

    • Jarv says :

      Top, top film this. Have to admit I had a tear welling up in my eye by the end. Can’t recommend this film enough.

      I still maintain that the cause and effect scene is a virtuouso effort.

      • docpazuzu says :

        “Something’s gotta break the flow.”

        Yep. Like I said, it seems that they were adamant about not letting the shoestring budget get in the way of their ideas. There’s no evidence of corner cutting anywhere that I can see. If this movie had been remade — frame by frame — with a Hollywood budget it would have been a massive, massive hit. Alas, if they ever did attempt a remake they’d turn it into some unimaginable monkeyfuck like Jupiter Ascending.

        Yeah, I shed some tears too. Partly because of fatherhood, and partly because of how well they sold those moments in the film.

      • Jarv says :

        The only bits that I can think of that look actively cheap are the bits set in the Storyteller’s world- which looks and feels like it was shot on an iphone in the woods near to where I live now.

        I love the fact that it only got distribution because of piracy

      • Jarv says :

        Also, I can’t believe that I haven’t seen any more of Winans or Duffy- the latter in particular I pegged as one to watch.

  14. Jarv says :

    Well, I’m a dickhead. It turns out he had a film out in 2014 called The Frame. I’ll have to look it up/.

    • docpazuzu says :

      I actually ordered the blu-ray of The Frame right after I watched Ink.

      Yes, there were a few really watchable actors in Ink. Duffy was one of them for sure. I also quite liked Jennifer Batter and Chris Kelly. The little girl was very good, too. Odd that none of the actors or either of the Winans were snatched up by Hollywood. Maybe it’s reached peak soul death and they simply refuse to hire anyone with even a modicum of non-controllable creativity and talent?

      There’s a ten-minute making-of on the disc where they show a few glimpses of the three-year production. It just boggles the mind when you see how meager their resources are and know how good the film turned out to be.

      • Jarv says :

        Yeah, I saw that making of. I think that’s where I got the material about the interview with Kelly.

        I think Kelly went back to the stage, because he’s a massive fraud at heart.

  15. docpazuzu says :

    Theater folk — fucking creep me out, man.

    • Jarv says :

      I’m currently editing the programme for a semi-professional opera company. I’ve never seen such damage done to the English language.

      • tombando says :

        You obviously haven’t been reading anything of Harold’s of late.

      • docpazuzu says :

        The library I work at is located in a so-called “culture center” in Gottsunda, Uppsala (Yes, the same Gottsunda where cars are set on fire every week and islamists cause trouble regularly). In the same culture center there’s a theater. Tragically, we share the same dining room/cafeteria. When I’m sitting there, subjected to their idiotic, self-centered babble, I feel like jabbing forks in my ears — or more to the point, THEIR ears. The pretentiousness is on a mindboggling level and should never have to be endured by sane human beings.

      • docpazuzu says :

        Ah, Harold…. yes. He seems barely conscious these days, zoning in from space once a week or so, drooling incomprehensible garbage about something vaguely film-related. Poor Quint keeps soldiering on, the only bright light left on that sorry site.

      • Jarv says :

        Never really recovered from that Kickstarter fiasco.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        Holy hell Docpazuzu there’s a name from the deep dark past. How are you?

  16. tombando says :

    Is Harold even a thing anymore? I think it’s more a Harold Bot that just burbles the usual incoherent Me Wike It Pwesents babble whenever a new flick comes out, just insert the usual shite where needed.

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