Review: 'Ink'

By: Bradley Hadcroft

INK is the final part of director Andy Stewart's body horror themed trilogy of short films - preceded by DYSMORPHIA and SPLIT, respectively - and it proves to be his most well-rounded and accomplished piece of work yet.

This particular slice of discomfort pie concerns a severely disturbed young man with a novel approach to body decoration and scant regard for basic medical principles. Suffice to say, tattoos play a major part in a movie titled INK; however, it is best to go into this deranged short as bereft of knowledge as possible and just throw yourself at the mercy of its twisted imagination.

The plot of INK is in fact relatively linear but once again it is the intricacy of its cinematic mechanics that creates the fierce intensity we have come to expect from this talented director. It really is a little Swiss watch of a short.  Stewart has retained the services of his gifted crew from previous installments of the trilogy for INK and once again they prove to be consistently professional and frequently inspired. INK is never anything other than technically accomplished and as such soars high above its under $10,000 budget.

David McKeitch's sound design is by turns brilliantly subtle and nauseatingly rambunctious, and Alan McLaughlin's camerawork is precise, lean, and moody - stalking Remo Catani & Chris Goldie's atmosphere drenched sets with economy and purpose. Award-winning effects artist Grant Mason takes us on another excruciating tour of his practical make-up repertoire and strong stuff it is indeed. 

The usual wince-inducing set pieces we have grown accustomed to from this body of work are present in sharpened spades. There will be many a tightly gripped chair arm amidst the sharp intakes of breath and diverted eyes once this cringe machine blazes its way around the festival circuit. Also to be commended here is the fine editing from Jim Lang. Taking the "Slow Burn " approach benefits INK tremendously as staring at It's glowing embers is just as engrossing as when it bursts into flames.

"The biggest lesson I have learned", says Andy Stewart, "is be open to the suggestion of others as, oftentimes, their ideas are better than yours and might actually benefit the finished project." This attitude is not only indicative of the team ethic surrounding INK but integral to its overall eminence. 

As with DYSMORPHIA  - and to a further extent SPLIT  - INK's ideas and themes are firmly anchored by one crucial central performance. This time, the actor entrusted with the job of carrying the bulk of the film is the superb Sam Hayman (NEDS). Hayman's intensely-delivered, wordless performance is mesmerizing. It's this level of commitment, from an actor who can add extra layers in a piece like this, that elevates INK to a whole new level of crazy.

Andy explains how Sam became involved :

"We did some auditions for the main role but didn't find anyone anywhere near what I had in mind. I was flicking through a filmmaker friend's Instagram and happened upon a pic of Sammy. So myself and Austin pretty much stalked him on Facebook, email, via friends of friends, until he agreed to meet up.We cast him at that meeting without seeing him act. We had heard only good things from people who worked with him before, and his pedigree (son of Sawney's David Hayman) was such that we took the risk and it paid off. He was incredible and totally got what I was after."

INK features many callbacks to SPLIT and DYSMORPHIA, and is indeed a fitting curtain-closer to the trilogy. It draws all of the common threads together and in doing so completes this baroque patchwork of guilt, jealousy and rejection. Full of mischievous intent and stylishly confident in its execution, you should not pass up any chance of seeing it.

Andy Stewart is currently seeking funding for feature length scripts and speaking to actors for another short film called UNTIL DEATH. This would be the first in a new short trilogy he has written that touches on various paraphilias and will be predominately female-driven, as opposed to the last three shorts. 

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