A Cure For Wellness (2017)

16 Feb

When I first saw the trailer for Gore Verbinski‘s A Cure For WellnessI was flooded with excitement. A known horror director making a genre comeback with (what looked like, at least) an artfully driven psychological drama – what could go wrong?

Well…. a lot of things actually.

The film starts out with a young businessman (Dane DeHaan) named Lockhart who is put on assignment to track down his missing CEO in rural Sweden and bring him back to New York City so he can put the finishing touches on a corporate merger. Lockhart soon discovers that his boss has found a comfortable home at his new estate: a spa-like wellness residency center that uses experimental forms of hydrotherapy to cure its many patients. Things get complicated when Lockhart decides to do some investigating into the colorful history of the center, exposing a dark rabbit hole of medical malpractice amongst other terrible things that could only take place in rural Sweden.

Right off the bat, Verbinski struggles a bit with the tone. A blockbuster veteran, he sets up the drama with broad, vague narrative points and ignores the details (in this case, obvious plot holes) that good genre writers are accustomed to fleshing out before getting into the spooky stuff. In his more accessible films like Pirates of the Caribbeanthis setup works. But in the horror genre (and especially with a film that seems geared for adults with it’s R rating) you can’t get away without explaining the obvious, leading the film to play in that awkward space between cliche and camp.

The film takes it’s time getting to scares, but around the one hour mark things get really interesting and you can almost start to see all the horror ingredients come together to cook up something great. Just when you think the action is starting to take flight, we get some exposition explaining the used-too-often urban legend trope (locals saying something spooky about the property a long time ago and that’s why someone is acting spooky now) or the needless flashbacks of Lockhart’s childhood trauma. All of it feels like extra baggage that weighs the film down and extends its already-lengthy runtime.  Cut to Dane DeHaan snooping around and looking puzzled for a few good moments and then cut again to some gross-out imagery and then again back to more flashbacks/exposition ad infinitum. By the time the third act finally rolls around, the film feels too damn repetitive for any of the usual big reveals to even matter and instead the audience is just concerned with who gets to kill who.

There is a lot of cool things to admire with A Cure For Wellness; it looks absolutely stunning (minus that CGI deer) and as with Verbinski’s other films, you get a cool immersive world to get lost into. There are moments of genuine suspense and some great scenes that show off Verbinski as someone with a natural director’s eye.  Collectively though, it fails to add up to anything noteworthy and you get the feeling that the film is simply a sad example of a blockbuster director trying to find his footing in smaller genre territory and getting lost in the process.

Bottom Line: While its many strengths outweigh its smaller issues, A Cure For Wellness is really a mediocre horror film that so easily could have been a great one with a decent editor and genre writer in tow.  It does however double as a nice preview of what to expect when Trump repeals obamacare in a few years. 


Rating: 5.7/10 

Film recipe: The Shining + Crimson Peak + Shutter Island + 80 minutes of Dane DeHaan making WTF faces

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