The Undying is a film that tells a very simple story; thankfully, it does not pretend to be more than it is. It just quietly tells its story.
The film, marketed as a horror movie, appears at first to be exactly that. Barbara Haughton, seeking to put the tragic death of her fiancé behind her, moves to a new home to get away from the past. Soon, strange things begin to transpire as it turns out that the house is haunted by the ghost of a Civil War soldier. The film must be praised for its subtle uses of fear: there’s no blood and gore here, but uncanny occurrences — such as the reflection in a shard of glass of a man who isn’t actually there — that actually turn out to be terrifying in their realism. Soon, Barbara begins to investigate, even venturing online to search “how to help a ghost,” just as, in every scary film, the main character goes online to research the supernatural.
Then the movie takes a turn: Barbara arranges for the ghost, Elijah, to take over the body of Jason Donovan, a man who recently died in the hospital she works at. From a scary film, this movie becomes a romantic drama. Through the centuries, Barbara and Elijah reach towards each other and help each to forget their past and find love. Anyone who’s ever read anything about ghosts knows that they are usually trapped on earth through a tragic death that they must come to peace with, and such is the case here. Barbara helps Elijah accept the events that led to his end, and, in the process, finds a new life for herself.
This isn’t a particularly complex or a particularly innovative idea, of course. It’s an unassuming story. The movie does contain plot and even suspense: the looming question of whether or not the personality of the man whose body Elijah has taken remains, whether it’ll show itself, and the police on Barbara’s tracks about the missing body from the hospital. But, for the most part, the story focuses on the love between the two characters. It’s simple, sweet, predictable, and well done if that kind of thing is one’s cup of tea.
Robin Weigert (Barbara) — who mostly has TV roles to her name — isn’t exceptional in her role, but she does what the part demands and she’s believable.More importantly, though, she looks normal. She doesn’t look like she comes from Hollywood, and it’s a refreshing change. Anthony Carrigan has the challenge of having to balance two personalities — Elijah’s and Donovan’s, a gentleman’s and an abusive husband’s — and he rises to that challenge. The story is supported by one of the most beautiful soundtracks I have ever heard: melancholy, poetic, lively, and haunting. In the end, however, the film can be characterized by its unassuming simplicity.