I haven't read anyone else's posts, so this is just my reaction to the film. I'm not feeling much inspired to write in any coherent manner, or complete sentences for that matter, or even look things up that I don't know, so hopefully you can make some sense of this.
What I liked about the film:
-cool choreography--the fight scene in the beginning, where the furniture gets destroyed and goes back together again was really rad. In general the fight scenes were pretty good, and and SFX that are good in a film with a $250,000 budget gets extra points in my book
-I liked the characters and thought the acting was decent. the dream rangers were likeable and while the dialogue was definitely inspired by fantasy novels, they related easily to each other. There was good chemistry among the cast, I guess is what I'm trying to say. The lead especially acted well.
-the whole first hour really had me hooked because I didn't know what was going on or where the film was going. There wasn't a lot of exposition, as I've mentioned, and so I was exploring this alternate universe along with the characters and it really sparked my imagination. I kept thinking in my mind, I hope they don't explain all this away later on...
-As I stated above, the world-creating was very effective. From the TV-face guys' HQ (and the TV face guys themselves--creeepy) to the dream rangers' woodlands to the hallway with the flickering windows to other dimensions, I was introduced to new and unique worlds, and that was exciting.
-Ink himself was also a lovely enigma--we weren't sure if he was good or bad, or what his story was...
I just thought of something it reminded me of--Terry Gilliam's Brazil and Time Bandits in particular, but in general Gilliam's imaginative worlds. Ink wasn't on the same level, but the reality Winans created was definitely better than a lot of fantasy films with much bigger budgets. And he definitely has the creativity to do work on Gilliam's level. I do believe that. Just watch his short film that Ben posted. Crazy creative, it is.
So here's the rub. Once you hit the hour-or-so mark, and the twist is given away early, a lot of mystique disappears. And it's almost as it the film knows it's given itself away, because then the characters start explaining everything and the mystery goes away. I kept trying to get back into it, kept wanting the mystery to return, but the film lost a lot of its power at that point. I was more interested in the alternate reality aspect of the story, and I guess I cared less about what happened to the girl. I mean, I did, but I wanted it to be a lot more interesting than the whole thing revolving around the absent father-abandoned daughter dynamic. Then throw in the dead wife, and it's all been said and done before, and much better. The ending of Time Bandits is unexpected and brilliant, because it surprises and captivates all the way to the end. The film Ink doesn't trust its own amazing creativity and falls back on too-conventional tropes and is less for it.
I chalk a lot of that up to Winans being a rookie. Now I know there are plenty of directors who are amazing first time out, and go on to do better work, but there are also plenty who have great potential but need a little more experience and perhaps guidance. I see Winans as being the latter.
It's one of the reasons I like independent film so much, even when it's not great. I love the new ideas, even the ones not executed as effectively as they could be. I like that it's art that's a lot closer to me, art that's within my reach to create or be a part of, and that's exciting to me. These guys have to be creative: they have to do the best they can with the talent and locations and equipment they can afford. And if you're a guy who loves fantasy and isn't satisfied with the types of stories that can be told more easily on a limited budget (stuff like Ellie Parker, or Clerks, or pretty much anything mumblecore), you're going to take a chance on something like Ink. And believe me, I've seen so much worse done for more money. Winans has got the spark to be a great filmmaker. The jury's still out, but he deserves a decent chance.