February 17, 2017.
I suspect that this movie is gonna go very under the radar, and a lot of people won’t want to see it, which is quite sad. The trailers for A Cure for Wellness have done a great job at selling you on the psychological depth of the movie, but have not been reliant on the element of horror to sell viewers. Horror buffs likely won’t want to see it because it doesn’t look scary enough, and the bizarre trailers and marketing campaign won’t entice the casual movie goer. All these factors make A Cure for Wellness one of the most underrated psychological thriller/horror films I have seen since Shutter Island.
A Cure for Wellness is directed by Gore Verbinski and stars the heroin chic model himself, Dane Dehaan as a young hotshot executive named Lockhart. He is apart of a big trading company sent to retrieve his CEO from a wellness centre in the Swiss alps. From the very first shot you can tell that this movie is visually gorgeous. Everything is tinted in a sickly dark green/blue color palette, invoking the feeling that something rotten is hiding behind the the members of this spa. Verbinski also uses the occurring musical motif of a slow, creepy hum that makes your skin itch. Verbinski did a pretty great job mixing visuals with sound design. You may know good ol’ Gore from the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, and his horror remake of The Ring. Verbinski is a very underrated director, thus he makes underrated films. I think A Cure for Wellness might be his most underrated, and his best to date.
The first half is perfect. I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. It is visually impeccable, and sets up loads of questions not only about the wellness centre, but on human nature. There is a lot going in this film. Like I mean a lot. Verbinski wants to raise questions on human ambition and grief. He asks if some ambition is to much, and how it can control you and allow you to ignore the important aspects of life. The themes within the story are dense, and they may not be explored as much as I hoped, but Verbinski does well intertwining them seamlessly into the narrative. The cinematography by Bojan Bazelli is definitely the film’s strongest feature. Bazelli cranks up tension by giving us extreme close ups on everyday items, such as watching the droplets of water slowly spiraling down a glass of water due to condensation, or a toilet lever being pulled as the camera slowly pushes its way towards the water. It’s the little shots like these that seem innocent, but are completely jarring and add to the tone of the movie. The sound design is also used very effectively, and is most noticeable when Dane Dehaan is on crutches and every step he takes we hear this eerie squeak. All this is apparent throughout the first 1h20. The first half of the movie may be perfect, but the quality in story and entertainment takes a dive in the second half.
About halfway through the film Lockhart takes the youngest (and most important) patient, Hannah (Mia Goth), to the small village close to the wellness centre to phone his company and tell him his findings and is soon captured by the doctors and employees. This is where the quality dips immensely. Soon after we get repetitive scene after repetitive scene of Lockhart making his way through different parts of the centre, only to be caught by the doctors. I feel like Verbinski and co-writer Justin Haythe had a bad case of writer’s block, and the only way they thought they could propel the narrative was to have Dehaan walk around and find something new every time. I swear there was like five different scenes they shot of Dehaan slowly limping his way down a hall that they had the production design team repaint a different color. I felt like I was trapped in the same moment over and over. I feel I should let you know now, before you see this, that A Cure for Wellness is an extremely long film. It clocks in at just over 2h20 and is quite the butt-number. They easily could have shaved off 30-45 minutes and still have a compelling film. I would like to see a cut of A Cure for Wellness with a runtime of about 1h50. It would be a more streamlined movie, and wouldn’t have the same repetitive scenes and loose ends it has in the theatrical cut. Also, this movie really needed a lot more help on the ending. The story we got for most of the film was engaging, albeit a little over the top. It was complex, and I was dying to understand the secrets of the centre and the doctors who work there. The ending throws everything that was smart about it out the window, and goes for the predictable, dumb ending that I feel most audience members will roll their eyes at. The first half was incredible, the second half was repetitive and not as engaging, but the performances were all great.
Dane Dehaan as the over-confident Lockhart was great. We are introduced to him as an egomaniac obsessed with climbing to the top of the food chain, and slowly we see his psyche and his personality degrade as he finds out the inner workings of the wellness centre. Dehaan has been mostly great in everything I’ve seen him in, and he his a perfect casting choice for these horror/thriller type of movies. The other two standouts were Jason Isaacs and Mia Goth. Isaacs plays the head of the institute, Dr. Volmer. His character is very complex, and Isaacs is able to weave his way through playing the innocent doctor, and the creepy doctor. Goth is also great as the youngest patient at the institute, Hannah, who Dr. Volmer is slightly obsessed with. She is very similar to Dehaan in that they are both good-looking, extremely pale and skinny humans who look like they have more in common with a vampire. Her quiet and innocent turn as Hannah hopefully will be an icebreaking role for Goth, as I hope to see her in more films. The performances in A Cure for Wellness did a good job in adding to the suspense and psychological carousel that the movie was going for.
Overall, I really enjoyed A Cure for Wellness, and I’m sad to see the box office results from the opening weekend. For the most part it is a smart psychological thriller, that does a formidable job in mixing its themes with its story. As I said before, the first half is perfect. If they could have kept the train rolling with the second half, I would give this a much higher grade. Unfortunately, the train loses steam in the second half and comes to a complete halt in the end with its over the top parody of an ending. The cinematography is some of the best I’ve seen in some time, and is definitely Oscar worthy. The performances from everyone are great, especially Dehaan, Goth, and Isaacs. The story and themes are complex, and the psychological aspect is present throughout. I hope to see this movie gain somewhat of a cult following soon, and I hope more people catch this while it’s still in theatres. A Cure for Wellness is actually a great movie, and will be the most underrated and under watched of the year.