Of all the dead girls at this year's FrightFest who hang around a little longer than they should, the one in Nina Forever is easily the most interesting.
Making an unwelcome return when her still-grieving boyfriend Rob (Cian Barry) starts seeing new girl Holly (Abigail Hardingham), Nina (Fiona O'Shaughnessy of Utopia) turns up one night broken, bloody and very dead, having passed away in a car accident a few years previously. She shows no signs of moving on, though, putting Rob and Holly's relationship under increasing strain thanks to her habit of popping up at the most inconvenient moments.
Big-eyed and blood-smeared, O'Shaughnessy steals every scene as possessive Nina, whether flopping around like a broken doll or delivering tart judgements about the state of Rob and Holly's rocky relationship. She's a grown-up version of Moaning Myrtle, and her insane introduction is terrifying and inventive, harking back to A Nightmare On Elm Street while chucking in a dash of Clive Barker for good measure.
As Rob and Holly attempt to find out just what Nina wants, the film alternates between darkly humorous and hauntingly sad, with nary a single scene escaping gory blood smears. Part ghost story, part erotic drama, Nina Forever fully exploits both genres, delivering a weird, confidently unusual meditation on grief. Even better, Hardingham makes for a fantastic lead; gutsy and determined, but with her own problems, she never feels like a victim. Nina Forever is more her story than it is Rob or Nina's.
Horror movies about dead exes are nothing new (in fact, they're very much on trend thanks to films like Life After Beth and Burying The Ex), but newbie directors Ben and Chris Blaine present something remarkably nuanced and emotionally complex. The question of just why Nina keeps hanging around is surprisingly thorny, even if a concrete reason is never given, while David Troughton and Elizabeth Elvin are fantastic as Nina's grieving parents, adding depth that many horror movies lack. Life goes on? You wish.