The first thing you should know is that this is a live action film. I was surprised by this because based on the look of the movie poster/DVD cover I had assumed it was animated.
This is an Independent film from writer/director Jamin Winans. There are no big names in it, nor are there any familiar faces, unless you have seen other movies from Winans. I think I recognized the little girl (Quinn Hunchar) from a TV commercial, but I could be wrong. The other key roles are played by Winans’ regular Christopher Soren Kelly and relative newcomer Jessica Duffy.
The movie opens with John (Kelly) leaving his office in a hurry and swearing up a storm. He ends up being in a traffic accident. While losing consciousness he thinks back to a moment with his daughter Emma (Hunchar) where she was playing pretend. Monsters were coming to get her and she wanted her father to play along and save her from them. While at first reluctant, John eventually does get into the spirit of things.
We are then shown scenes of several people asleep. Beings travel into their homes and bedrooms. Some of them, the Storytellers, give good dreams to them (not unlike the beings in Wings of Desire). Others, the Incubi, give them nightmares. Both sets of beings are not visible to humans. Storytellers and Incubi oppose each other, sometimes physically. The Storytellers look “normal”, while the Incubi all wear masks that project the same false smiling face. By the way, these Incubi are not presented in the traditional definition of the male demon that enters women’s rooms at night to have sex with them. In this case, they want people’s souls.
That night a being that is neither Storyteller, nor Incubi, enters Emma’s room. Storytellers are alerted and show up to fight him. His name is Ink and he is very disfigured and dressed in rags. He manages to get away with Emma, but in the fight his device which allows him to journey between our reality and that of the Storytellers and Incubi was damaged. He can get away, but he can’t get directly to the Incubi, which is his goal. He has stolen Emma’s soul in order to take it to the Incubi so that he can become one of them. In the real world, Emma was been left in a coma.
The next day John goes to the office to find that an account that his team supposedly had wrapped up is thinking about going to another firm. He rallies his team and they are in the middle of planning strategy when John’s estranged father-in-law shows up. He tells John that Emma has been taken to the hospital and is in a coma. You see, after the death of John’s wife, her parents fought John in court for custody of Emma and won. The result is a lot of hard feelings from John towards them, and a disconnect from Emma (hence the reluctance to first play along in the memory we saw.)
Emma’s grandfather tells John it’s very important that he go see Emma in the hospital. John is now torn because he’s literally the only one who can save this massive account for his company. He is scheduled to go meet with the account. If he goes to the hospital he will miss the meeting and the account will be lost. Unbeknownst to John, there is an Incubi standing beside him whispering thoughts into his head about how the father-in-law is wrong, that John’s life is more important, etc.
Meanwhile, the Storytellers have split their efforts. The majority of them join with a blind Storyteller who is a Pathfinder. What does a Pathfinder do? We find out as the movie goes along. It does tie in to whether John goes to see his daughter or goes to the meeting. The leader of the Storytellers, Liev (Duffy), manages to locate Ink. After first fighting him, she gives up when he threatens the girl he has with him. (If her soul dies in this realm then she dies in the real world.)
Liev offers herself as another hostage for the Incubi. Ink doesn’t trust her, but he can’t deny that she would be a great gift to present to the Incubi. It quickly becomes apparent what Liev’s plan is. First, she comforts Emma, who is very scared. Second, she starts working on Ink, trying to sow some doubt about his plan. She finds that Ink does have emotions, including guilt over what is going to happen to Emma. We eventually learn that Ink is who he is because he had been a human who committed suicide. When he woke up he was in this other realm and was horribly disfigured. He covered himself in whatever clothes he could find to hide his appearance. He feels his only hope is to get the Incubi to let him join them.
Does John go see Emma in the hospital or go to the meeting, and why are both the Incubi and Storytellers so interested? (And what about that accident we saw John get in at the opening of the movie?) Does Ink manage to make his way to the Incubi, and if so, does he go through with his plan to sacrifice Emma to them, or does Liev manage to change Ink’s mind? The answers are presented and past, present, and even future blend together.
One note - you’ll have to pay attention. I’ve seen a lot of posts on the film's IMDB message board from people who didn’t understand the movie. I certainly wouldn’t call the reveals “straightforward”, but I didn’t have any trouble understanding them. Of course, I was watching the film without distractions, too.
Even though the movie was low budget compared to mainstream films, they still managed to have some key scenes, including the traffic accident. The special effects used for the masks the Incubi wear are effectively creepy (pun intended). Kelly, Duffy, and Hunchar all give good performances. I was especially taken with Duffy. She just seemed to have a real presence on screen.
This film is not your average movie, and as I mentioned above, it is not straightforward. If either of these things would bother you, then this is not the film for you. For everyone else, I highly recommend this movie.
Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars