NINA FOREVER Review
Director: Ben & Chris Blaine
Genre: Horror Comedy
There’s much to be said in favor of a festival circuit horror-comedy that isn’t complete garbage these days. For the most part, these films are teeth-gratingly familiar in their approach to comedy, constantly riding off of the success of their triple-A ancestors, Edgar Wright’s SHAUN OF THE DEAD and Joss Whedon’s THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. Ben and Chris Blaine’s film, NINA FOREVER, is a noble attempt to play with form and present something wholly unique in the horror-comedy subgenre. The result is a mixed bag, cleverly subverting expectations, oftentimes more poignant than funny, but it is also a film that would have been best suited as a short and not a feature.
Exploring the trauma that comes with starting a new relationship after losing a loved one, NINA FOREVER is really a meditation on mourning and obsession more than anything else. For the first 30 minutes it’s brutally effective, too, splashing in a perfect blend of disturbance and earnestness. The film is played so straight that it never guns for laughs and really only induces a chuckle or two from how ridiculous its scenario is. All of this works well, but the Blaine brothers’ film falls apart as they fail to modulate and add to their narrative.
“It’s okay, my first time was messy too”
After the film’s instantly shocking inciting incident, NINA FOREVER continues to simply loop its narrative beats. It manages to comment on the inability of these characters to get over the death of a loved one, but never digs further into their psyche. Paranoia and insanity start to overtake their lives, and their decision-making starts to border on illogical. The film clearly wants to challenge its audience, but it ultimately comes across as a manipulative attempt to compensate for a narrative that simply doesn’t warrant more than 30 minutes of exploration.
This becomes all the more evident in the film’s use of editing. NINA FOREVER’s most compelling trait is how daring it is in its use of temporal space, constantly darting its audience from one moment to another. This works surprisingly well during its first act, employing a unique narrative shorthand that jumps the nonsense and gets right to the nitty-gritty.
Pictured: Swinger parties at Tim Burton’s house
Any aspiring filmmaker should watch these segments as an example of how to effectively employ some of the lapses in time that are usually suited for the more formalist workings of auteurist directors. The fact that NINA FOREVER respects its audience’s intelligence is also its greatest asset. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t know where to go with its own story once it actually has the viewer hooked.
NINA FOREVER does a lot right for a film that comes from an often vapid subgenre. Horror-comedies have a poisonous tendency to pander to fans of traditional horror so ruthlessly that they end up alienating viewers who are there for a profound experience. Ben and Chris Blaine manage to squash many of the preconceived stigmas that come with tackling this genre, but also fall victim to completely different foibles that prevent the film from being worth feature-length. Nonetheless, the directorial work here is impressive, and if the Blaines’ continue on their path of playing with form so effectively, they might have a smash-hit on their hands in the years to come.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend