PLOT: Some months after the death of his girlfriend, Nina, suicidal Rob finds a reason to live thanks to his intense co-worker Holly. But their burgeoning relationship hits a nasty snag when Nina shows up from beyond the grave to interrupt the new couple whenever they make love.
REVIEW: A great many horror movie fans also turn out to be romantics, so it's with a certain amount of twisted delight to come upon NINA FOREVER, which is as bizarre and icky as a love/horror story can be. Boasting a bevy of excellent performances, a deliriously offbeat premise, and an honest-to-goodness new iconic horror character, NINA FOREVER is exactly the kind of oddity we should be seeking out instead of complaining about how there are no fresh offerings from the genre.
The film marks the feature debut of Ben and Chris Blaine, who take what initially sounds like a been-there, done-that idea and turn it into something much more involving and fresh. How many times have we seen the old "dead girlfriend returns from the grave to haunt her boyfriend and his new gal"? LIFE AFTER BETH and BURYING THE EX are two of the most recent examples, and while each had fun with the notion, neither broke the mold and were resigned to be mostly forgettable. NINA FOREVER slinks its way around the zombified ex schtick and delivers us into the arms of Nina, who's neither zombie nor ghost. In fact, it's not clear exactly what she is, but she sure isn't going away anytime soon. That's good for us, bad for her former BF.
Nina (Fiona O'Shaughnessy) died in a car crash months ago, leaving her boyfriend Rob (Cian Barry) shattered and suicidal; he's already tried to off himself a couple of times, obviously with no success. Alleviating his pain is the arrival of co-worker Holly (Abigail Hardingham), a shy, quiet type who has a hidden dark side that Rob immediately gravitates to. It only takes a single date for the two to connect physically, but their night of passion is interrupted by the bloody entrance of Nina, who literally emerges from within Rob's bed and makes herself cozy. A tangle of broken bones and open wounds, Nina is surprisingly forthright with the shocked lovers, making it known she's not pleased with the arrangement. Holly, naturally, flees the scene, while Rob hides away in the livingroom. Seems like this romance was short-lived indeed.
But no. Holly and Rob can't stay away from one another, and even with the knowledge that Nina might reappear, the two get down to business... with Nina not far behind to join the party. Somewhat hesitantly, Holly and Rob actually make an effort to invite Nina into their lovemaking (boy, anything goes nowadays, huh?), but Nina's not having it. She's not their to contribute to a threesome, she's there to reunite with Rob; all other potential paramours need not apply.
This is a freaky premise, to be sure, but the Blaine brothers handle it rather matter-of-factly; NINA FOREVER could find itself swiftly wandering into silly territory, but the speed with which Rob and Holly accept their situation allows the audience to just go with the flow. The blue-collar surroundings and characters also keep the weirdness somewhat grounded. That's not to say the movie is devoid of creepiness; Nina is a grotesque figure no matter what, and her sexily sardonic attitude give her chats with Rob and Holly a sinister edge. The more she shows up, the more it wears on Holly, who one must say is really committed to Rob if she's willing to put up with all this morbidity. (You have to hand it to Rob; talk about being a ladies man!)
With Nina, O'Shaughnessy creates a horror movie character that is sure to stand the test of time. (It'll be tough to make a PG-13 Halloween costume out of her, but I bet we see some gals try.) Although she's not an evil presence, so it's not accurate to call her a villain. Furthermore, it's not quite accurate to call NINA FOREVER a horror movie. Both the character and film have a darkly comedic view on the matter at hand, and both are similarly imbued with a kind of wounded melancholy. Nina didn't ask for this to be her lot in (after)life, but she's dealing with it the best way she can: with cynical humor and a measured amount of reasonability. O'Shaughnessy is perfect casting for this instantly-memorable spirit.
Barry is good as the tortured Rob, but Hardingham is a match for O'Shaughnessy when it comes to crafting an intriguing, forlorn heroine. While we can't always understand Holly as a character (most of you gals would happily search for a new dude during this, I assume?), Hardingham's earnest performance is captivating enough for us to buy into her determination to make this thing work.
Two terrific female protagonists, a solidly lurid romance, and enough sex and blood to get the whole room sticky? NINA FOREVER is a perfect date night movie for you horror enthusiasts with heart.