By Ryan Keating-Lambert
A Cure for Wellness tries to pay homage to the style and feel of classic horror and has a promising beginning, but by the finale, it’s just one giant plot hole full of wriggling eels.
Directed by Gore Verbinski (The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean), A Cure for Wellness sees cunning young executive Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) sent to Switzerland to bring back his CEO, who has taken up permanent residence in a rather creepy but beautiful health spa in the Alps. After a car accident, Lockhart stays in the spa to recover and loses himself in the pursuit of a ‘cure’.
The concept seems straight forward and relevant. A cure for the rat race flu, a cleansing of our selfish materialistic endeavours, but Verbinski over-complicates a narrative that’s already been stretched too thin. There are so many plot holes and irrelevant scenes in this film that I don’t even know where to begin.
First of all, why on earth were the so many eels? They’re pretty gross, and yes they’re rife with symbolism, and always there when we’re most vulnerable, but it was too much, especially in THAT scene. You’ll know it when you see it. Unjustified, over-the-top squirms. And for an institution with such a cult-like agenda, they really have rubbish security.
It’s a real shame though, because the art direction is gorgeous. Verbinski really knows how to use water in an elusive and claustrophobic way. The scenes around the steam rooms and baths were beautifully creepy and reminded me of The Ring, one of Verbinksi’s best films to date. Even the music was similar.
It seems inspiration was taken from a host of classic horror movies here. The music and feeling of paranoia rung the Rosemary’s Baby bells over and over, and that scene down in the steam room was incredibly subtle but utterly terrifying like The Shining. The sound of Lockhart’s crutches, and the hazy walls that materialise out of nowhere – this is the kind of mood that I expected to persist, but it just didn’t.
Towards the final act it becomes so random and messy that you lose all connection and sympathy for these characters. I even caught myself laughing at the sheer stupidity of where the narrative and characters ended up in that final scene.
However, DeHaan is impressive as Lockhart and it looks as if he went through hell in some scenes, especially when submerged inside that tank. Jason Isaacs, who plays the spa director Volmer, was basically Lucius Malfoy from Harry Potter once again, and Hannah, played by Mia Goth, was much better as part of the scenery than an actual plot device. Why was she even there? So much wasted time watching her do almost nothing.
A Cure for Wellness wants to do for spas what Psycho did for showers, and at the same time it wants to be something profound and original… but it’s just 2 hours and 26 minutes of disappointment. A pity, since Verbinski has made some great films. At least this one is a step up from The Lone Ranger.
Photo: Screen Rant