One of 2017’s first big flops, Gore Verbinski’s A Cure For Wellness is a curious thing. I missed it in the cinema, despite really wanting to catch it, it wasn’t on for very long and was pummelled by critics and audiences. Finally today I managed to get around to it and was rather shocked by what I found.
I expected an early 2000’s style, trashy horror thriller, admittedly which I do enjoy, but what I got was something very different. A long, ponderous movie, beautifully shot and enveloped in Benjamin Wallfisch’s stunning score, A Cure For Wellness is actually closer to something by Hitchock. The stunning scenery of Switzerland both complimenting and adding to the terror.
Story-wise I found it very similar to Dracula, just without Vampires. Dane DeHaan’s emotionally damaged Lockhart is caught up in some shady business deals. His employers offer to offload the blame on their CEO Pembroke who has run away to a mysterious health clinic in the Swiss Alps. Once in Switzerland, Lockhart finds the clinic is very strange, like a reverse Shutter Island, everyone is sedate and happy. The creepy Dr Volmer (Jason Isaacs) is far too nice and Hannah (Mia Goth) is the only other young person in the clinic and she is distant, detached and definitely hiding something. One horrible car crash later, Lockhart is trapped in the clinic, no closer to getting Pembroke home and a new mystery unravelling around him.
There is a LOT going on in this film. I mean, the synopsis above is basically just the first act. Verbinski’s non-linear structure and vague style keeps you guessing and hooked despite a two and a half hour runtime. Wellness is not a hard film to keep track of, but it’s constantly teasing reveals and pulling you along sterile corridors and dank old tunnels. The actual look of the film is incredible, reminiscent of Verbinski’s own The Ring mixed with Shutter Island. Just, y’know, without the terrifying ghost girl but with loads of eels instead.
The only quibble I had was Dane DeHaan’s slightly wooden acting. He comes across as Keanu Reeves without the cool, but as the story progressed his bewilderment faded into despair and anger.
I think in time, A Cure for Wellness will end up as a beloved cult classic. It’s got enough depth and mythology to warrant multiple viewings and certainly has the visual flair to hold up in future. The long runtime maybe off putting for some, but watching at home where pause buttons exist gives no excuses. Plus, the third act reveals are satisfying, which makes a difference. So many long, drawn out films splutter out an ending that doesn’t quite work, but Wellness sticks the landing.
Give it a look, if you’re a fan of slow burning, creepy horror especially.
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