Let’s talk about Gore Verbinski for a bit. The man has obvious talent as he is one of the few people who has managed to remake a Japanese horror into something watchable, but he has made genuinely great movies other than that divisive The Ring movie. Rango is criminally underrated and criticize the later films all you like but Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl is an excellent blockbuster, that right mix of humor and big action. But after The Lone Ranger flopped, Verbinski has gone back to the creepy stuff that made him famous. But is this return with A Cure To Wellness any good?
Lockhart (Dane DeHaan, Chronicle) is a rising star in the corporate world but it has been noticed by his higher-ups that he has been doing it with less than legal means. In order to make sure they don’t reveal his misdeeds to the authorities, Lockhart is forced to travel to a spa in Switzerland to retrieve a CEO who has refused to leave the retreat. He soon discovers there is more than meets the eye in this retreat however.
You can tell just by either going to watch the trailer or if you are rather lazy, looking at the images on this page that this is a very visually striking film. This is because the production design is brilliant. Instead of just going for a sleek modern spa sort of look, everything looks like it has come from the Victorian era with the building got aged looking white and green scales with the equipment all being thick brassy metals. I absolutely love it, the movie’s look recalls those old Victorian asylums you heard those horror tales about so you can just tell that this place is not going to be a nice place to be. Honestly with so many movies relying on CGI to build their worlds, to see such effort to be put in to making these visually impressive sets is nice to see.
The performances in A Cure For Wellness are pretty decent as well. While Dane DeHaan does have a bit of a baby face to be a Wall Street mogul, this actually ends up working in his favour when it’s contrasted with all the old folk that occupy the spa. There is some decent but not fully realised commentary on the stresses of work and how that makes us ill, the movie would be better if it did more with this, and the fact Lockhart is suffering from this when he is so young compared to the usual old patients means that potential weakness of the baby face is made into the strength. But every scene is stole by Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) who is basically here to have fun. He puts on a ridiculous accent as the head of the spa Volmer and is just so much fun to watch.
This is probably going to be the last nice thing I say about A Cure For Wellness though, so be prepared as I felt the rest of the movie was a massive disappointment. As this is sort of a horror thriller, you of course get plenty of mysteries that will eventually be solved by the end of the movie. And they do set up some very intriguing threads. Of course there is the main mystery of why everyone who goes to this place wants to stay, but there’s a few others that you do want to know more about. There’s this water which is said to have magical healing properties but of course you don’t trust this and there’s this girl named Hannah (Mia Goth, Nymphomaniac: Vol. II) who is said to be special. The problem is that the film gives us way too many hints and we work out the twist way before we are meant to which lessens the effect of the big reveal. And when the film is basically built around these mysteries, that’s a huge issue.
Unfortunately, A Cure For Wellness is one of those films where I continued to slip out of it as I realised that people were doing stupid things in it. I can get past how easily the folk in this spa start to love the weird stuff that happens, I’ve got past weirder. No, it’s just the poor doctoring that I feel should get called out. So early on in the movie, Lockhart is involved in a very serious car crash that some how only breaks his leg. There’s two stupid things that come from this. Firstly, we find out the taxi driver has only got scratches from this crash. Considering this was a wreck where a car flipped several times down a hill, that is staggering. Then the thing that really disconnected me from the movie. I have broken my leg and one thing the doctor really hammers into you is that you should not get the cast wet. So of course very quickly after Lockhart’s leg is put into a cast, he is fully submerged into water. During this, Lockhart gets attacked by eels and almost died because the doctor has decided to masturbate to a topless nurse that showed up. It is that sort of film.
But while A Cure For Wellness had lost me way before then, the ending really kills any idea that this could be just be a flawed but good movie. At first, you think the ending is good because the movie tricks you into think it all gets wrapped up 30 minutes early. It would be a very dark ending, but it would be fitting and it would leave that weird feeling in your bones because it was rather disturbing. Instead, the film decided to continue and properly goes nuts. Instead of a tense thrilling ending to this movie, we get something out of a Hammer Horror movie. There’s nothing wrong with these sort of films, and the more I think about the more I realise Jason Isaacs is channelling Hammer icon Christopher Lee, but it’s not the sort of ending this film should have. It makes a film for all it’s flaws has been rather creepy into a laugh riot, and that ruins this move.
I am in no way recommending A Cure For Wellness. It is not a good film because it has too many leaps in logic you just can’t buy into, mysteries that are way to obvious way too early and an ending which seems like it has been tacked onto another movie entirely. Something I haven’t been able to mention before as well which works against the movie is it’s crazy obsession with the idea that eels are scary. They aren’t, they are icky. But while it is bad, it is interesting. I wish more bad films were bad like this because I could talk about this movie for days and sometimes I can’t even manage that with good movies. So it might actually be worth a watch, just to revel in the madness. Now, I just need to persuade Screen Critics to pay for an all expenses paid trip to the local spa, I’m sure it won’t be as bad as this one.