If B-level versions of Gone with the Wind and Somewhere in Time got together and had a baby, chances are it would come out something like The Undying. Dull, boring, and brutishly slow, this “horror” movie fails to scare or entertain, and barely tells a story. I should have known from the synopsis, which involves a woman moving into an old house being “seduced by the spirit of a dead Civil War soldier” that this was going to be nothing but a dud, but given my affinity for Civil War projects, I just could not stay away. I have to hand it to screenwriter David Flynn for a somewhat interesting plot that encompassed a haunted house, romance, mystery, and a neat historical tie-in, but it just never seemed to get off the ground, or out of its own way. What could have been a chilling mystery, appealing to many demographics (history for the men, love for the women), manages to botch it all and turn out a mess of horrifically forced lines, an elevator music soundtrack, and a suspension of disbelief so preposterous I could not keep from laughing. An excruciatingly slow hour and forty minutes, the only scary part about this horror movie was the editing.
There is a cheesiness about this film that is so pungent I figured it was made for Lifetime Movie Network. The love story, though necessary for the plot, is anything but realistic, or even steamy. The scares do nothing to thrill us, and the film plodded on about twenty minutes more than necessary. The Undying, which sounds like a low-budget zombie flick, is about a doctor (Robin Weigert) who moves into a haunted house where an innocent and injured Confederate soldier was once murdered by Union soldiers, along with the woman he loved. His spirit remains trapped in the house, and of course has encounters with the new owner, busy starting her job at a local hospital. This is when an unbelievably atrocious and ridiculous part of the story comes in. Weigert’s character manages to somehow fall in love with the ghost after having a dream about him, and even more morbid, develops affection for a comatose patient in her ward at the hospital. When it comes time for the plug to be pulled on the patient, she does exactly that, before realizing that she could attempt an experiment so utterly stupid that it’s hard to comprehend. She revives the man back to life, steals his somehow still-breathing body, and brings it back to her house. There, she dares the spirit of the dead solder to come into the body, so he may live again. I’m all for creativity, and I love science fiction, but I did not even think drugs could be responsible for such stupidity.
Of course, since this is a movie, the experiment works, and she falls in love with a man straight from the 1800’s, trapped in a modern body, and stuck in a modern world. These few scenes after he “wakes up” are probably the best, if not at least amusing. It is humorous to see the solder learning how to work a television, make instant coffee, learn what cholesterol is (while eating eggs for breakfast) and witness cars and planes in action. But here is where the romance ruins it all. Sex and love are expected, but there is too much. It dwells on this aspect to the point where it becomes awkward to watch. It was at this point where the film was no longer horror—it became fantasy, in all its lumbering glory. The two seem to be perfectly happy, so of course, there needs to be trouble. A flirtatious doctor (Jay O. Sanders) develops the hots for Weigert and we come to learn that the dead body (Anthony Carrigan) now occupied by the solider, was a murderer, and flashes of his violent streak sometimes break through the kind and loving soldier. There is a policeman investigating the disappearance of the body from the hospital, played by the always terrific Wes Studi. He steals every scene he is in with professionalism, and, well, decent acting. His scenes are the highest level this movie can achieve in terms of legitimacy. As with most horror movies, there is a violent and bloody ending, but thankfully, there was an ending.
My rating for this is going to be a very generous 3 out of 10. The movie had so much promise, but the camcorder feel and elongated running time, combined with lackluster acting and simply abominable editing brings it down so much that I can barely recommend it to anyone. I suppose women will enjoy this more than men, and Civil War buffs who are hardcore enough will watch anything related, but other than that, just stay away. The Undying is so bad it will make you wish death was final after all.