Nina Forever, 2016.
Written and Directed by Ben Blaine and Chris Blaine.
Starring Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Abigail Hardingham, Cian Barry, David Troughton, and Elizabeth Elvin.
After his girlfriend Nina dies in a car crash, Rob unsuccessfully attempts suicide. As he begins to overcome his grief, he falls in love with a coworker, Holly. Their relationship is complicated when Nina, unable to find rest in the afterlife, comes back to life to sarcastically torment them whenever they have sex.
It’s pretty bold to proclaim your film as a “fucked up fairy tale”, but give credit where credit is due to the Blaine brothers, because Nina Forever fits the bill. More surprisingly however, is the film’s refusal to go the campy comedy route (there are most definitely some touches of black humor though), but instead center the narrative on dramatic allegories as to how grief and loss effect the multiple parties involved, especially so for the widow of the relationship moving forward.
Absolutely crucial to the success of Nina Forever are its performances that take such a bizarre and silly horror/romance premise and make it genuinely affecting on an emotional level. As previously mentioned, I would imagine anyone that comes across the brief synopsis for this movie will envision something campy, laced with copious amounts of gratuitous gore and sexual content to meet a random quota for entertainment purposes.
Instead, when a ghastly looking corpse with broken bones emerges from blood that materializes whenever our couple of equally unstable mental personalities decide to fornicate, we’re both horrified at her presence (the practical effects and makeup work are bloody outstanding here, even with a ridiculously small budget), yet in a weird way become empathetic to her strange passive aggressive methods of torment. It also helps that the characters remain aware of how outlandish the situation is, paving the way for some devilishly quotable lines of dark comedic dialogue.
For as erotic as the sex scenes are (it’s highly unlikely anything better will be put to screen in this department this year), the bedroom shenanigans with a persistent, clingy ex-girlfriend (who refuses to be labeled as such, even in death) are just as entertaining, often containing tightly packed tension that you can cut with a knife. Whenever the three leads are sharing the screen, Nina Forever is downright hypnotic and successfully achieves its lofty ambitions of cutting to the heart of the true emotions of its fractured souls.
Newcomer Abigail Hardingham also becomes an instant star here portraying Holly, a 19-year-old paramedic in training that is slightly crazy (after all, she is going after Rob because she imagines love with a guy who tried to commit suicide after the untimely death of his girlfriend, to probably be supremely intimate, both mentally and physically), who isn’t just obsessively fixated on doing anything in her power to make this relationship work, but to fix Rob. More importantly, that right there is where much of the ease for viewers to emotionally resonate with the plot stems from, as the movie essentially does deliver on being one fucked up fairy tale. Hardingham’s wide eyes and profound facial mannerisms are enough to tell a story on its own though; we sense that she’s crazy, in love, lustful, and buy into the fact that she isn’t exactly disturbed by the reanimated corpse of her boyfriend’s dead girlfriend invading their privacy during lovemaking sessions.
Where Nina Forever occasionally stumbles is usually whenever the duo isn’t being stalked by this revenant. There is a subplot of Rob still keeping in contact with the parents of his late girlfriend, which works to varying degrees; it successfully ties into the core themes of loss and grief, but also unfortunately reeks of boredom more often than not. A few of the scenes could have definitely been shaven in length without losing much of substance. The movie also doesn’t completely capitalize on a few outrageous moments, most notably when Holly and Rob literally have sex on the grave of Nina as some sort of whacked out idea of getting rid of the persistent zombie.
Nevertheless, the style of Nina Forever (everything is even aided by a relatively hip indie rock soundtrack) is unwavering, with the Blaine brothers determined to say something about life and relationships after death. The first time filmmakers stick to their guns, keeping the film well-balanced between off-beat twisted humor,, purposeful erotic sexual content, drama, and layers of blood, all without ever once resorting to campiness and undoing all the goodwill the story builds up to, and ending on a relatively subversive note.
Nina Forever isn’t perfect, it’s actually sometimes a fairly rocky ride, but it is one of the most ambitious horror films ever made. You could actually argue it isn’t even a horror film simply because it refuses to fall in line with its usual tropes, but is instead hellbent on carving out a unique experience of its own breed. Neither Nina nor originality are dead.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
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