NINA FOREVER (2015): An Art Film Disguised as a Horror-Comedy?
The horror and romantic comedy fusion film NINA FOREVER (2015) is an example of what almost all indie filmmakers want: a distribution deal that places their work in front of a lot of eyes in many venues. “Hey,” you might say, “wait a minute — I saw this movie in my local multiplex. It’s not an indie film!” But, my friend, you would be wrong.
NINA FOREVER got its production financing partly through a successful 2013 Kickstarter campaign. After investing GBP 25,000 of their money and then starting production, the Blaine Brothers (writer-directors Chris and Ben) raised an extra 18K (a part of which, of course, went to Kickstarter) to finish the project.
The result is a film that succeeds in some ways more than in others. The story is a good example. In a nutshell, it’s about a woman who comes back from the dead to haunt her former boyfriend. This basic horror-comedy template has been used before, notably (and recently) in “Life After Beth” (2014) and “Burying the Ex” (2014). Noting this fact is not meant as a criticism; just about every story has been done before.
There’s little doubt that the Blaines were aware that they were plowing recently-tilled ground when they wrote the screenplay for NINA FOREVER. They took an art-film approach to making their horror-comedy, including biting dialogue and dramatic conflict along with well-done horror special effects and a variety of sight gags.
The film’s comedy is as sardonic as its title character, Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy), who returns from the dead in memorably gruesome fashion after her suicidally-bereaved boyfriend Rob (Cian Barry) starts to “move on” by having sex with Holly (Abigail Hardingham). Still, Nina is not the main character. Neither is Rob.
The film is really about Holly, Rob’s rebound romantic interest. A nineteen-year-old college student studying to be a paramedic while working alongside him at a supermarket, she’s preoccupied with others seeing her as “dark,” especially after her previous boyfriend dumps her for being too “vanilla.”
Although it’s a commentary on relationships and sex, NINA FOREVER is also about the dangers of striving to achieve such darkness, especially when it’s not clear what that entails. In trying to make being “dark” her personal (but superficial) style, Holly gets much more than she bargained for. Nina returns again and again when Rob and Holly have sex, driving them to extremes to find a way to exorcise her from their relationship.
None of their methods work. Holly doesn’t understand what Nina’s getting at when she asks, “Why do you think I’m still here?” By the time Holly eventually grasps Nina’s message, she’s taken in all the brooding darkness that lived in Rob before she met him. Ironically, he travels the opposite path, becoming more “vanilla” as he finds a position that corresponds with his Maths Ph.D. and extricates himself from a bizarrely enmeshed relationship with Nina’s parents.
In a powerful foreplay scene in which Holly and Rob mark each other with inked type from Nina’s old press, the words that they imprint on each other reveal their new roles. Rob has become a “pussy” in Holly’s eyes; to Rob, she’s just a “fuck”. When Rob refuses Holly’s demand to add more pain to their lovemaking, she decides she’ll hurt herself — by crushing her arm in Nina’s type press.
In so doing, Holly passes the point of no return. Nina appears once again, this time to force Holly to understand the true meaning of darkness. As she prevents Rob from freeing Holly from the press, Nina says, “This is what darkness is. Flesh trapped between metal.” Holly wanted to use darkness as a surface ornament, but it’s now a part of her existence. Nina tells her the reason why: “You let me get under your skin.”
The Blaine Brothers rightly foresaw that a theme as heavy as this one needed to be lightened with comedy. However, they allowed dialogue to carry too much of the load. Nina’s frequent reappearances become somewhat tedious as a result. They are different mostly in what Nina says, not in what happens. It’s not surprising, then, that some viewers have commented that they thought NINA FOREVER was “boring.”
Yet the film has developed a following of loyal fans who clearly resonate with what Nina represents. It might go on to become a cult classic, despite average audience ratings on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes (where the critics loved it). Only time will tell. I enjoyed the film (which I watched twice), but I’m one of those horror fans who leans towards the art-film end of the genre’s style spectrum.
Frisco Kid’s IMDb Rating: 7 out of 10 stars.
If you’ve seen it, what did you think about NINA FOREVER? Let me know in the comments section below.
If you haven’t had a chance to experience NINA FOREVER yet, you can sign up for a chance to see it at a reduced price, courtesy of the film’s distributor, Epic Pictures Group.
Being one of the first 50 people to complete LOUD GREEN BIRD’s Rafflecopter entry form enters you in Frisco Kid’s NINA FOREVER GIVEAWAY. Out of those who sign up, one person will win a promo code to buy/watch NINA FOREVER on Vimeo at a 50% discount.
Editor’s Note (5/11/16): The giveaway is over and the winner announced on Facebook and Twitter. However, if you still want to watch NINA FOREVER, head over to GoWatchIt to review the many options for viewing this film.