And we have a horror hat trick folks. A perfect horror hat trick!! Indie horror filmmaker Andy Stewart is the talented guy behind this horror hat trick and if he hasn’t proven himself to be a serious name in the genre by now, then you just aren’t paying attention. Stewart contacted me earlier this year humbly asking if I’d review two of his short films, DYSMORPHIA and SPLIT. They sounded interesting and I gladly accepted. Simply put, I was blown away by them. They were beautifully crafted with heavy atmospheres of gloom and horror and they were gory. Very gory. I don’t mean they were gory for being low budget shorts. They were gory by any standard. So when Stewart emailed me the link to his latest short, INK, I was rubbing my hands together like a mad scientist waiting for that first bolt of lightening.
I was not disappointed!!
I’m not going to give away too much about INK. The basic story is that the main character, known as “The Man” (Sam Hayman), has what you might call an appreciation for tattoos. He really likes them. Loves them, even, And he really loves other people’s tattoos as well. We follow The Man around and watch him spin more and more out of control until the disgusting ending where he tries to hide the evidence of his wrong doings. That’s all I’m going to say about the plot/story of INK. This is the kind of short film that works best if you have no idea of what you’re getting yourself into as you sit down to watch it.
What really impressed me about INK is how much Stewart has matured as a filmmaker since his first short film, DYSMORPHIA (2012). You can feel the level of confidence he has behind the camera and he has a firm grip on the material. Stewart set out to make a trilogy of body horror short films and he more than succeeded. His short films play out like poems and INK is the culmination of this trilogy. INK is a beautifully shot film while at the same time being a horrifying film that you can’t take your eyes off. Many of the same themes from his previous shorts are present in INK: Man’s destructive nature, the fragility of the human body, the power and influence the mind has over the body, and how mental illness can manifest physically. If I thought it were possible I’d think that Andy Stewart was a growth removed from David Cronenberg’s body that grew up to continue Cronenberg’s work in the sub-genre of body horror. (This may not sound like a positive comment but it’s a huge compliment)!!
Stewart also gives more than a few nods to his earlier shorts, DYSMORPHIA and SPLIT. Besides the obvious connection of all three main actors being named “The Man,” Stewart also throws in a lot of reference points to those earlier works. I don’t think he was simply winking at his fans. When viewed one after the other, INK takes on a completely different level of horror. It is indeed a short that can be enjoyed as a stand-alone short, but in the context of his other shorts I think there’s something deeper going on here. Again, I’m being vague so as not to ruin anything for anyone but I’d be more than happy to discuss Stewart’s films with anyone via email. I will write that the simple task of referring to his main actors as “The Man” gives his shorts so much depth. By not having names his lead characters are essentially dehumanized – they’re just meat. This makes the viewer look past the flesh and try and see and figure out what’s going on inside the mind’s of these characters. It’s brilliant writing and besides some screams and moans, The Man in DYSMORPHIA and INK don’t speak one work of dialogue. Great performances in what look to be very difficult roles.
SPLIT is still on the film festival circuit and INK will be joining it shortly. But as soon as these films become available I’ll let you know. You can check out Stewart’s first short, DYSMORPHIA, here. INK is a fantastic film and I cannot wait to see what Stewart comes up with next!!
Director: Andy Stewart (& writer & producer)
Plot: 5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 8 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 0 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer