SXSW 2015 Review: ‘Nina Forever’ is Horror with a Heart

The problem with romantic movies is that they’re not horrifying enough. Love is a sticky, visceral mess that fills most of us with terror (even when it’s going right), and while plenty of horror movies use love as a way to unpack our collective romantic anxieties, there aren’t many romantic movies that use blood and guts as an inroad to our sensitive sides. 

Nina Forever is such a movie, the kind of film you might not know you needed until you see it for the first time. Written and directed by The Blaine Brothers, the film stars Cian Barry as Rob, whose girlfriend died in a car wreck about a year ago and who is only just starting to move on with his life. He’s getting along very well with his co-worker Holly (Abigail Hardingham), but as they move to the bedroom and the clothes come off, the sheets fill with blood and Rob’s dead girlfriend Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy) Hellraisers back into existence right next to them. Her body is still broken, she’s covered in blood, and she does not approve of Rob’s new girlfriend one bit.

It’s shocking. It’s a horrifying, terrific sequence. It’s also not really “horror,” in a traditional sense. The corpse of Nina isn’t out to kill Holly or exact revenge on Rob, she’s just there, in the room with them, every single time they have sex. Nina doesn’t like it any more than they do, and although she seems to understand the nature of this particularly gruesome curse, Rob and Holly can’t figure it out for the life of them. They try everything to expunge Nina from their lives, to give the ghost closure, and they even once try to get a little freaky with her remains, but nothing works. She’s just stuck there, like a deeply regrettable tattoo.

 

Nina Forever Cian Barry Abigail Hardingham Credit Lenka Rayn H

 

Although the Blaine Brothers know their horror, and let Nina Forever get really creepy on more than one occasion, they’re not making a scary movie. They’re making a potent romance and a tender drama about grief. The Clive Barker elements serve the same dramatic function as the fight scenes in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, illustrating the inner struggle between two lovers and their baggage with an unusual yet powerful cinematic language. The novelty alone might have been worth a recommendation, but Nina Forever’s cast finds a rich vein of emotional honesty and they mine it for everything it’s worth. And the Blaine Brothers confidently dramatize their journey, with a sensitivity that’s usually reserved for tender awards season dramas.

There’s nothing like it, really. It’s a unique exploration of horror, love and loss. It’s a sexy, funny, morbid and beautiful film for horror lovers with a heart, and romantic audiences with a dark side. Nina Forever digs up your skeletons, lays them out on the bed and dares you snuggle up. Take the offer. Trust me.

 

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William Bibbiani is the editor of CraveOnline’s Film Channel and the host of The B-Movies Podcast and The Blue Movies Podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.