Judge Daryl Loomis is haunted by the ghosts of bad horror.
Let the dead lie.
I love independent horror films and feel like they can represent the best that the genre has to offer. The operative word, though, is "can." When they don't work, they result in really awful, boring experiences. While The Undying is far from the worst horror film in the world, it's a terribly dull foray into the world of paranormal romance.
In it, we find Barbara (Robin Weigert, Deadwood), a nurse still grieving over the year old death of her boyfriend who has moved out to a beautiful but remote ranch house to be alone with her thoughts. The house, though, is rumored to be haunted by a Confederate soldier who was murdered at the end of the Civil War. The ghost starts appearing in her dreams asking for help and she gets an idea. A comatose patient is taken off the machines and, instead of delivering it to the proper authorities, she takes him to the house and keeps him alive, hoping to have the ghost inhabit the body. Sure enough, the guy comes out of the coma as the soldier. He seems sweet and Barbara starts to fall in love with him, but soon, the personality of the patient starts to emerge and he's a sadistic killer looking to return to his former life.
First, the positive part: the performances here, at least from the two leads, are pretty good for this level of production. Robin Weigert evokes a lot of sympathy as the lonely grieving woman looking for something without being totally sure of what that something is. Anthony Carrigan, in his only major film role, does remarkably well shifting between two personalities, one a Southern gentleman and the other a violent and disgusting sadist. They work pretty well together and, for the time that they're a couple, seem pretty natural. The rest of the acting is not so great, but the screen time for anyone other than the leads is very limited.
Everything else about the film is plain dumb. Even under the horror umbrella, a genre that requires a ton of suspension of disbelief, the story is preposterous on every level. No matter how lonely Barbara is, the last thing she's going to do is steal a body from a hospital during her work hours. Not only that, even if people believe he is dead and has been sent to the morgue, nobody at the hospital seems to realize that there's some very expensive life support equipment missing from his room. How about having some dude get into a car accident outside of her house and having Barbara steal a few instruments to keep him alive? It's more convenient and far less ridiculous, but of course, that wouldn't allow there to be an investigation into the missing body, which does little but pad the running time of a too-long film.
There's absolutely nothing scary or creepy about The Undying, and it looks like it would be better served on Lifetime than on DVD. The dialog is poor and is only saved on any level by the above average acting. The direction by Steven Peros (Footprints) lacks any style whatsoever and is as bland a horror film as I can remember seeing.
The disc from MTI is adequate, but nothing special. The image looks every bit of its independent roots; there's nothing particularly wrong with it, but there isn't a whole lot of clarity or detail. The colors and black levels are decent, though, and there isn't a ton to complain about. The surround sound track might as well be stereo, as there is almost no action in the rear channels or low end. The dialog is clear enough, but the separation is nearly nonexistent. Extras include an audio commentary from the director, which goes into pretty serious detail about the production and the story, a photo gallery, and a trailer.
Too long, too lame, too bad.
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