A Cure for Wellness
What is wrong with us? It’s the mystery that haunts A Cure for Wellness, a Gothic action-chiller that stands as one of the strangest studio products in years – not least due to its generous helpings of eels, incest and murder – because it is an original property, a singular, stylish vision that just doesn’t come along as much as it should.
Dane DeHaan is perfectly cast as Lockhart, a sneering young executive on Wall Street, whose eyes carry dark bags from constantly darting around a computer screen filled with numbers. He is sent from his sharp corporate home to the depths of the Swiss Alps in search of a CEO, who has failed to return from his visit to a mysterious “wellness centre”. This is depicted as a modern-day Dracula’s Castle, where head doctor Volmer (Jason Isaacs) and his white-clad orderlies cultivate an atmosphere of outward joy and serenity. But it doesn’t take a genius to work out that something isn’t quite right; and as Lockhart pries further into the place’s dark secrets, such as the identity of young Hannah (Mia Goth), or the composite elements of the medicine in the blue bottles, his own health begins to suffer.
Gore Verbinski might have made a living directing the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but he once made The Ring, the rare case of a remake that improved upon the original. Here, he tries his hand once again at atmospheric dread, and often succeeds. The winding halls of the hospital and the lush Swiss exteriors are handsomely shot by Bojan Bazelli to evoke the classic tropes of a Gothic thriller, albeit with a neo-liberal twist. (The core issue seems to be the chronic fatigue of corporate life, and the romanticisation of alternative medicine – the clinic serving as a Shangri-La as run by David Cronenburg.)
There’s an overarching mystery that’s reminiscent of Shutter Island, but Verbinski succeeds best when he literally draws blood. Be warned: the body horror here pulls no punches, as poisoning gives way to extreme dentistry and eel-electroshock therapy. So much is crammed into the 146 minute running time that it’s fun to simply anticipate the next scene – the lush production design and general lack of restraint throw out a surfeit of fun surprises. A Cure for Wellness isn’t a perfect film, but it’s the perfect example of what should be regular splashes of variety in the blockbuster landscape.
A Cure for Wellness is released nationwide on 24th February 2017.
Watch the trailer for A Cure for Wellness here: