‘A fucked up fairy tale’ is how Nina Forever’s trailer describes Ben and Chris Blaine’s dark horror-comedy and it’s not joking. Taking a rom-com and adding a sarcastic, undead ex is an unusual concept to say the least, but the Blaine brothers and their fantastic lead trio somehow make it work.
Rob (Kian Barry) is grief-stricken and suicidal, following the tragic death of his girlfriend Nina. However, when he falls for his co-worker Holly (Abigail Hardingham), life seems like it might be in the up. Until, mid-coitus, a zombified Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy) decides to join the new couple in bed. Rob and Holly’s fledgling relationship is put to the ultimate test: coping with a sarcastic corpse watching you at your most intimate. Something clearly must be done but will Rob’s feelings for his dead love get in the way?
Nina Forever is, mostly, very, very funny, on the most part due to O’Shaughnessy’s fantastic performance as the darkly amusing corpse. Whether she’s contesting her status as ‘ex-girlfriend’ (denying her status as deceased, meaning her and Rob are on a break) or tormenting Rob and Holly, her dead-pan delivery and perfect timing sent ripples of laughter through the Mayhem audience. In fact, it is O’Shaughnessy and her performance which makes Nina Forever such a treat to watch. The physicality she brings to the role, with her convulsive movements and slightly broken way of holding herself never letting the audience forget that this woman has been hit by a car and is, or at least should be, dead.
Nina and her return to the world of the living through the bed sheets is a beautifully grotesque shot, the pure white of the sheets pooling with blood beside the couple before her hands shoot up, as if climbing out of a grave, to grab the unsuspecting Holly’s feet is a fantastic piece of cinema. Though on the surface, the film is wonderfully comic and bizarre, the deeper themes explored, that of grief and letting go of loved one, is a universally understandable one, and the film deals with it fantastically, without ever becoming overly melancholy.
“Her dead-pan delivery and perfect timing sent ripples of laughter through the Mayhem audience”
With O’Shaughnessy’s performance being so well delivered, it does, sadly, sometimes feel that the other two leads are being over-shadowed. Both Holly and Rob are often relegated to reactionary characters, reacting to Nina rather than being able to make the most out of their role. Unlike O’Shaughnessy, her two co-stars are good, but their performances are nothing special.
David Troughton deserves a mention for his amusing role as Nina’s dad, a part which he plays both to comedic and tragic effect, one moment composing a poem about urinating, the next lamenting his lost daughter. In the Q&A after the Mayhem showing, one of the Blaine brothers mentioned that Troughton suggested a sequel with himself and his on-screen spouse being visited by Nina, an idea which is both fantastic and horrifically disturbing.
Nina Forever may not be the best film that Mayhem had to offer this year, but it was, for me, one highlight. Managing to strike a perfect balance between its comedic and horror aspects, Nina Forever (and O’Shaughnessy’s performance in particular) is a gripping and enjoyable watch.