This review originally ran as part of our coverage of SXSW 2015. It is being reposted as the film opens theatrically this Friday.
In the realm of cockblocks, there’s nothing more intrusive than a vengeful ex-girlfriend who wants to sabotage every future relationship you attempt without her.
Wait, let me rephrase that. In the REALISTIC realm of cockblocks, that’d be the absolute worst – but Nina Forever doesn’t care to explore our human world. No, according to the Blaine brothers, the absolute WORST cockblock known to man comes in the form of your dead ex-girlfriend who only appears during passionate lovemaking sessions with other woman. This is the lustful tale of Nina Forever, a morbid fable about letting go and moving on – even if the past comes back from the grave.
Holly (Abigail Hardingham) is in love with Rob (Cian Barry), and Rob is in love with Holly. This all seems healthy and promising, except for the repeated efforts of Rob’s ex-girlfriend Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy) to form a wedge between the two. This isn’t your typical psycho baggage though, because there’s a catch – Nina is dead. She first appears during Rob and Holly’s inaugural love-making session, slithering up from underneath a pair of bloodied bed sheets. Trying to make rational sense, she explains that Rob and her are still an item. You can’t break up with someone if they’re dead, right? Despite that minor hiccup, Holly fights Nina’s wishes, she continues to date Rob, and the couple attempt to deal with Nina’s haunting presence every way possible – but can Rob let go of his former lover for Holly’s sake?
On the surface, it’s not hard to see that Nina Forever is a tragic romance that oozes sexuality, raw emotion and utter tragedy. In its most simplistic form, the Blaine brothers explore two lovers who are striving so mightily to be together, yet one is still haunted by stunted feelings he never had a chance to properly cope with. Nina’s reappearance comes about because Rob still leaves so many connections to the past intact, and even though Holly is present in the flesh, his thoughts are still with his darling Nina. No matter what he says. It’s Shakespeare meets Joe Dante in a matter of words, turning love into a horrific, disgusting mess.
But under all the blood-soaked hanky-panky is a much more endearing relationship that blossoms between Holly and Nina, the two woman vying for Rob’s undying love. As Rob works to rid his mind of Nina’s essence, Holly finds herself becoming more and more obsessed with Nina’s ravishing darkness. This plays to a quote uttered in the beginning of the film, when Holly is dumped by a guy who says she’s too “Plain Jane.” Well, Nina comes in as this kinky answer to Holly’s volatile state of being, in a hypnotically maddening sort of way. Nina Forever is not only an examination of the mind’s subconscious, but also the dangerous seesaw effect of a young, impressionable lass who overcompensates to prove assumptions wrong.
While Nina Forever is crafted as a dark comedy that favors stone-cold romanticism over laughs, there are a few moments that flow like poetry in motion. At the expense of sounding questionably deranged, the Blaine brothers do find ways to make some of the sex scenes obscurely tantalizing, in that you might find a few perfectly-framed screenshots hanging in some random indie art gallery. Sure, a nasty graveyard tryst plays more for laughs, but the supple tenderness unearthed during Rob and Holly’s second celebration of romantic expressionism turns into a handsy bit of erotic artistry. Nina reaches out from under the sheets and starts caressing Holly’s heaving breasts while Rob continues his missionary duties, and the three gyrate in unison to create a beautiful moment of interconnected love – even though we know one of the ménage participants is dead.
Nina Forever is more than a cheap skin flick with undead overtones. It’s a somber story of young love and the twisted mentalities that become romanticized by the most compassion-hungry souls. Holly is more than a romantic. This is a girl who finds beauty in any man willing to kill himself after the death of his girlfriend, and her endless devotion to finding that raw emotion becomes poisoned by Nina’s hurtful words. It’s actually a rather sinister turn for Abigail Hardingham, and one that I absolutely adore. The same goes for Fiona O’Shaughnessy, who spends the entire movie naked, mangled and morose, but she brings a favorable amount of seductive deception to Nina that engages in dark sparks of energy between herself and Holly. Cian Barry’s part as Rob exists more as a participant in the ghastly relationship, while Hardingham’s slow descent into madness takes command of the screen – fueled by Nina’s lingering soul.
The Blaine brothers give a new meaning to the phrase “Devil’s Threesome” in Nina Forever, one that bends genres and blends boundaries between the living and deceased. Losing someone is never easy, but we’re typically able to hang onto memories so said person’s existence is never forgotten. But what if those memories prevent you from moving on, in the case of losing your soulmate at a far-too-early age? It’s the uncertainty that eats away at us, bogging our minds with thoughts about how the future COULD have turned out, but those tend to be the most dangerous places for our fantasies to wander – especially when said thoughts manifest into zombie exes.
The Blaine brothers' first feature is twisted, bloody, cheeky fun, but engaging performances from Hardingham and O'Shaughnessy create a combative fireworks show that impresses the most.