Thursday, 18 February 2016

NINA FOREVER

Directors: Ben Blaine, Chris Blaine, Starring: Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Abigail Hardingham, Cian Barry. Horror/Drama. UK, 2015, 98mins, Cert 18.
Released in the UK on EST on 15th February and DVD & Blu-ray on 22nd February 2015 by Studiocanal.

There were three in the bed and the dead one said: “roll over, roll over...”

Two’s company, three’s a crowd funded (in part) British debut feature which tackles the grieving process with copious amounts of blood-soaked bed linen.

Having unsuccessfully attempted suicide following the tragic car crash death of his girlfriend Nina, mathematician Rob (Cian Barry) is slumming it as a shelf-stacker in a supermarket during the week, and spending his weekends seeking emotional solace through visiting his ex’s grieving parents. Trainee paramedic and fellow work colleague Holly (Abigail Hardingham) is drawn to Rob and they soon hit it off. Unfortunately, no sooner do they start to make the beast with two backs on Rob’s bed, than his deceased ex Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy) rises bloodied and broken through the sheets presenting Rob with an unexpected morbid ménage à trois.

Although the central conceit conjures up shades of HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II, whilst Julia’s celebratory mattress resurrection was willingly instigated by Dr. Channard, here it is an unwelcome manifestation of Rob’s inability to cope with the loss of Nina and the guilt of attempting to move on. It’s a scenario previously well-used in rom-coms, but directors Ben and Chris Blaine eschew cheap laughs and instead make their bed bloodied and bruised, haunting and memorable.

The performances are right on the money; none more so than Abigail Hardingham, outstanding as Holly, the trainee paramedic with an extreme character arc. From being dumped for supposedly being ‘vanilla’, to literally embracing the dilemma of competing with the bloody ghost of a dead-ex sharing her boyfriend’s bed in a determinedly uninhibited way, Hardingham is the central core around which the dead Nina and Rob messily intertwine. And a special mention is warranted for Nina’s grieving parents, played by David Troughton and Elizabeth Elvin, whose exhausting effort to suppress their pain finally erupts in an emotional draining scene.

Despite the generous helpings of blood and gore on display (Nina’s post-crash injuries are vividly rendered), this bittersweet fable is not a calculated exploitationer, and the decidedly non-coy sex scenes are refreshingly honest and serve to enhance character rather than merely titillate.

A surprisingly assured first-feature then for the Blaine boys. Having made their bed with NINA FOREVER it will be fascinating to see where they will lie next.
Extras: Promo segment, deleted scenes, making of.

****(out of 5*)

Paul Worts


This review was first published on the FRIGHTFEST website.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

THE LIBRARIANS (SEASON ONE)



Directors: Dean Devlin, Marc Roskin, Jonathan Frakes, John Harrison, Tawnia Mckiernanby Peter Askin, Starring: Rebecca Romijn, Christian Kane, John Kim, Lindy Booth, John Larroquetten. Fantasy TV series, US, 2014, 420mins, 4 discs, Cert 12.

Released in the UK on DVD on 8th February 2016 by 4Front Films.

Originally aired in the UK on the Syfy Channel, season one (10 episodes) of this light-hearted fantasy series comes to DVD in a 4-disc set. 

Following on from three original ‘LIBRARIAN’ TV-movies featuring Noah Wyle as Flynn Carsen ‘The Librarian’ (singular), the premise was then expanded to introduce 3 new ‘Librarians’ and their ‘Guardian’ as they try to protect the world from magical artefacts too dangerous to be left in the outside world. 

Based underneath the Metropolitan Library, a bibliographic depository with TARDIS-like properties holds a vast collection of magical treasures. Helping the new ‘Librarians’ in their quests is the delightfully grouchy Jenkins (John Larroquette) the Library’s caretaker/butler. Whilst the original Librarian Carsen mainly takes a backseat, the new Librarians consist of Jacob (Christian Kane), an art history/architecture expert masquerading as an Oklahoma manual labourer, Cassandra (Lindy Booth) a mathematician who has sensory hallucinations caused by a brain tumour, and Ezekiel, a professional thief. Tasked with protecting the Librarians is Colonel Eve Baird (Rebecca Romijn), formerly a counter-terrorism agent for NATO.

Whilst the magical artefacts gathering and neutralising premise sounds a lot like WAREHOUSE 13, accusations that THE LIBRARIANS plagiarised that show are unjust because the original LIBRARIAN movies which outlined the basic premise pre-date WAREHOUSE 13 (case dismissed!)
The series derives a great deal of fun from spinning riffs on well-known legends such as King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone whilst the bad guys are headed up by ‘Max Headroom’ himself, Matt Frewer, as Dulaque, the leader of the Serpent Brotherhood (boo- hiss). 

The individual episodes in season one are forsooth in truth a bit hit and miss. Some suffer pacing issues and feel overly padded out, but when the series finds it stride, it breezes along with its pleasantly entertaining tongue-in-cheek yarns. Two of my favourite episodes were directed by Jonathan (STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION) Frakes. Episode 4: “...And Santa's Midnight Run" features that scourge of the ‘Deadites’ Bruce Campbell as Santa himself. And episode 6: “...And the Fables of Doom” which also features another former STAR TREK alumni René Auberjonois from DEEP SPACE NINE as a small-town librarian. Reading from an ancient magical storybook the townsfolk, and indeed the ‘Librarians’ (apart from Ezekiel) are slowly taken over by classic fairy tales and start to take on the personas of fairy tale characters. (A possible inspiration for ONCE UPON A TIME perhaps?) And Rob Zombie’s rebooted ‘Michael Myers’ Tyler Mane swaps his Halloween mask for that of a Minotaur who stalks the cast through a labyrinth in the third episode: “...And the Horns of a Dilemma.”  

So why only the 3-star review then? Well, the main flaw for me was that I found I just couldn’t seem to really fully engage with any of the characters (except for John Larroquette’s Jenkins who for me steals every scene he appears in). In particular, John Kim’s lock-picking ‘Ezekiel Jones’ has no back story whatsoever and is a one-note character I struggled (and failed) to warm to. Although the cast clearly all put in a considerable shift in their respective roles, they just seemed to lack the necessary ingredients to carry me along with them. (I felt more sympathy for the anthropomorphic sword ‘Excalibur’ if truth be told)
This was probably the main reason I didn’t bother with season two when it eventual re-surfaced on the Syfy channel.

But in fairness, as a light piece of undemanding escapism that you can watch whilst having your dinner, you could do a lot worse. So perhaps THE LIBRARIANS doesn’t quite deserve to be shelved just yet.

Footnote, (or bookmark), the screener discs led me quite the merry little dance. Not only were there no menus, but I discovered the episodes weren’t in chronological order but rather scattered randomly across the 4 discs. (Hopefully this won’t be a ‘feature’ on retail copies).
  
***(OUT OF 5) 
Paul Worts