by Patrick Bromley
Nina Forever is the movie that Burying the Ex was trying to be. Joe Dante's latest movie, released last year, was about a guy unable to get a new relationship going because he was haunted by the undead body of his ex, tragically killed in an accident. It's a good idea for a movie, but Burying the Ex was more interested in juvenile humor and ugly attitudes towards women to really explore its own metaphor. That's a job better handled by Nina Forever, the feature directing debut of Chris and Ben Blaine. This movie is so good.
Nina Forever isn't a horror movie in the traditional sense. It's horror movie in the way that last year's Spring was a horror movie, which is to say that it uses certain horror conventions as a metaphor for a larger story about grief, relationships and the baggage we all carry. By literalizing the spectre of Rob's past, the film becomes a dark comedy -- there's something inherently funny about this bloody corpse materializing from the bedsheets like something out of Hellraiser every time Rob and Holly get close to having sex. O'Shaughnessy plays the role very funny, too. She's part hurt by betrayal, part irritated to have to watch Rob with another woman, part resigned to her own helplessness. She's sarcastic and eventually starts trying to mindfuck Holly away from the relationship. Holly, to her enormous credit, tries everything to make the insane circumstances work -- and I do mean everything. The movie isn't afraid to take a story about an attractive couple and a ghost/zombie sharing a bed together to its logical conclusion.
Horror is better equipped than maybe any other genre to be about more than it's about. Usually it's because the movies are speaking to our unconscious fears and anxieties, and not just in the literal "there is a man with a knife who wants to kill me" way. They force us to consider what the man with the knife represents, and why a specific period in American history was able to support so many movies about men with knives trying to kill us. But horror is so often used to explore ideas and emotions that we don't immediately identify with the genre, whether it's David Cronenberg processing his divorce in The Brood or 2014's The Babadook examining depression and the anxieties of being a parent. Nina Forever is that kind of horror movie. Those looking to be scared or grossed out will come away disappointed, as the film is not interested in being those things. But those who have had to work at a relationship in which one person's past played a role or who has experienced the death of someone close to them will recognize a lot of the emotions that the Blaines are processing. This is a movie that has a lot to say about love and loss in a very human way. It just does so through the language of horror movies.
Turbo Kid and Tales of Halloween last year (as well as a bunch of great movies before that). I like that genre films are getting to a place now that they're almost being "curated" by companies like Epic, who have shown such good taste in projects thus far that I will seek out anything they choose to put out next. Nina Forever is idiosyncratic and funny, sad and weirdly sexy (which may say more about me than the movie, but again, Abigail Hardingham). It feels personal and specific -- two qualities not always associated with the horror genre -- and is no doubt going to help someone through a breakup or loss someday. We can't ask for more from our art than that, especially art with undead threesomes.