When you hear the summary for Nina Forever (boy loses girl to accident, boy meets new girl and old dead girl shows up every time they have sex), you might expect the worst. It sounds like a set-up for a legitimately gross (i.e. gory and deadly) threeway rape fantasy flick, with the leading guy getting to have his way with both a living and willing girl and a non-consenting dead girl. But the surprise is, this isn’t a film about the guy. It’s about the girls and their strange, strained relations to each other.
Our lead in the film is, interestingly, not Nina, the dead ex played by Fiona O’Shaughnessy, but actually Holly (Abigail Hardingham), the new prospect of Rob (Cian Barry). She’s the one we meet first, as she explains to her friends that she wants to get with her damaged coworker, who, she has heard, is suicidal over the death of his late girlfriend. Right from the get-go, this woman is intrigued by the darkness that comes with this guy. And when she finally gets with him and finds a bloodied and naked Nina getting between them (most literally) in bed, she is not deterred for all that long. In fact, she’s the one who attempts to help Rob get past this whole Nina thing by refusing to stop fucking him even with Nina around, assisting with frequent sheet washing, and even getting a “NINA FOREVER” tattoo to match Rob’s own. The question is, is Holly making his work because she loves this guy, or because she loves the morbidly sexy baggage he comes with?
There is an answer in Nina Forever, but in between that there’s a whole lot of experimenting, both in terms of the characters and the filmmakers. The sex scenes are pretty frequent and tow the line between sexy and real, and scary and unreal. And of course there is Nina herself, who is hard to forget on all levels, namely due to her intriguingly strange physicality, blood and makeup smeared face, and doll-like voice. Co-directors and co-writers Ben and Chris Blaine dreamed up an oddly irresistible antagonist to Hardingham’s Holly and O’Shaughnessy brings her to (after)life so tragically and beautifully. The scenes between these two women have much more heat than the ones between Holly and Rob and not in a gross male gaze kind of way, but in a way that suggests these two might have more in common than just their paramore.
Surely, there is a moment in which Holly attempts to sexually engage Nina, but that is cut short as Nina clearly informs Holly that she’s not in it for those sort of kicks. So what is she in this for? And will the film (and Nina and Rob) be able to come to a successful climax until we find out?
I won’t dare reveal the ending, but I will say that, once again, this is not a fuckboy fantasy and things get messy in ways that are far from sexy. And no matter how you feel about where things end up, you’ll leave with things to discuss and think on. Four days later and I’m still having a hard time forgetting Nina Forever and no, I’m not making a joke, but rather admitting that once you get past the bloodshed and initial shock value, there are some serious conversations about relationships and sexuality to be had. And the reason that these conversations seem so real, so realized is because of the ways these two women are written by the Blaine brothers and portrayed by Hardingham and O’Shaughnessy.
Holly and Nina are treated like more than just love interests for the male lead, even in their intimate scenes with him, and in that way, they put your gendered expectations for such a necroromantic film to bed for … well, you know.
Emily is covering the Toronto After Dark Film Festival from October 15 to 23, 2015 live from Toronto, Canada. Stay tuned for more female-centric reviews.
This piece is part of Galloween, Cinefilles’ month of all-girl horror coverage. Click the image to read more.