I have always maintained that less is more when it comes to horror movies. I also believe that the less you know about the movie itself, the better. It gives you as the viewer somewhat of an advantage and lets your imagination stretch its legs. This is how I went into A Cure for Wellness. A wide eyed, uncorrupted horror movie nerd. I had seen a few select trailers, but I had purposely not watched any clips and kept my ever wandering eyes away from reviews. I had high expectations for this film. Not only has Gore Verbinski directed one of my favorite horror movies (The Ring), he has also directed the good Pirates of the Caribbean movies (1-3). He is a director that loves to show off his sets and his films are always visually stunning. No one can argue with his incredible ability to weave a story and make it stick with you for days after. The mark of a truly great director. With a formidable cast, an experienced director, and an original story, A Cure for Wellness had the recipe for a creepy and compelling horror thriller. Unfortunately, it was really just a convoluted and pretentious snore fest.
Where to begin on this film? I will start with the positives because, to be honest, there aren’t many. A young and ambitious executive, Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is sent to retrieve the CEO of his company from a mysterious and picturesque health spa in the Swiss Alps. After a strange accident that leaves his leg broken, Lockhart is forced to stay at the Institution under the care of Dr. Volmer (Jason Isaacs). He becomes somewhat enamored with a female patient, the childlike Hannah (Mia Goth), and begins to dig into what is really going on behind the idyllic façade. Soon he discovers that things are not what they appear to be and the reality is terrifying.
The cast in this film is stellar. DeHaan reminds me of a young Leonardo DiCaprio and his performance is reminiscent of DiCaprio in Shutter Island. He is great at playing the “Are they crazy or am I” role. Isaacs lends a strength to the film that only a veteran actor can while Goth gives off eerie and almost ethereal vibes.
The visuals in this film are rather striking. Verbinski has a way with color and frame composition that will leave you in awe. There were moments of stark and beautiful simplicity and in contrast, moments where I felt almost overwhelmed by the opulence of a scene. If a film’s merit was based on these things alone, it would have been a hit.
While a stellar cast and beautifully haunting visuals can make a movie watchable, they cannot save it and it cannot rely on them alone to bring it to the next level. This movie is unbearably long: 2 hours and 43 minutes to be exact. That is a long time to hold the attention of an audience. This movie should have ended about 4 times before it actually did. One of the things I love about The Ring is that the “twist” at the end is done in such a smart way. It lulls you into a false sense of safety and then you realize that everything you thought was wrong and now shit really hits the fan. The first time that happened in A Cure for Wellness I thought, “Oh wow, okay well that was a cool ending. I didn’t really see that coming.” By the 4th time, I was ready to throw something at the screen. Horror movies nowadays have a huge problem with overdoing it and this film is no exception. Remember what I said about less is more? The longer I watched this film, the more pretentious it felt. I could almost feel the allegory being shoved down my throat. I get it. Consumerism is bad. We go to drastic measures to keep ourselves young and healthy but, in the end, we are all mortal and these measures often have pretty devastating consequences. I didn’t need this movie to tell me that, let alone beat me over the head with it. The final “twist” in this film is obvious to anyone who was paying attention and it is underwhelming at best. There were a couple scenes that genuinely creeped me out but certainly not enough to make this a good horror movie.
A Cure for Wellness is watchable. This is how I can describe most of the horror movies I see these days. Sure, you can sit and watch them. Will you be entertained? Maybe. Will you be scared? Possibly. Will it shove everything down your throat because the general movie going population is too stupid to think for themselves? Sure thing. I really wanted to like this movie and in some respects, I did. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough good things happening to save this movie from being an uninspiring and over complicated narrative. Where is the fun in watching movies if everything is going to be spoon fed to you? Would I recommend this movie? Only if you have an extra 3 hours to spare, you want to watch a visually appealing film, and you don’t mind leaving the theater feeling a little grossed out and filled with disappointment.