Kaly Connolly ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The real horror in A Cure for Wellness was how many times it seemed like it was going to end but didn’t. There was also the dental-themed gore, incest, and Dane Dehaan trying to look his age. Directed by Gore Verbinski and written by Justin Haythe, the two manage to make a movie that is one of the most bizarre things to come out of a major studio in years.
The movie opens with a dark office, illuminated by rows of computer screens. A man sits alone in the dark, empty room—focused intently on his work. He groans a couple of times, which is a go-to way to alert the audience that he’s probably going to have a heart attack. Then, he stands up and drinks some water from the bubbler, has a heart attack, and the camera focuses on the spilled cup of water.
The symbolism in the movie isn’t light. Water is a big deal.
That same Manhattan office is the workplace of the young executive, Lockhart (Dane Dehaan). With his coworker dead, Lockhart is given the task to retrieve the company’s CEO, Pembroke (Harry Groener), from Switzerland to deal with a big financial matter. Unfortunately, he’s at the mysterious spa/sanatorium that the film centers around—which is also a little reminiscent of Shutter Island.
There’s a lot of crazy, stunning visuals that may border on being slightly indulgent, but definitely capture the eye—dark hues of greens, blues, and grays. The city has a particularly drab feel, which is no accident. Verbinski makes it clear that the human condition is a mess and everyone at this office is living an empty life. He doesn’t even try to make Lockhart likable, he’s just as miserable as the conditions around him, barking orders and desperately chewing on nicotine gum.
Lockhart arrives at the spa with the intention of grabbing Pembroke and catching the red-eye back home to New York City. However, when he shows up, the nurse at the front desk tells him visiting hours are over, but Lockhart doesn’t care about rules, and it all goes downhill from there. He absentmindedly signs some paperwork so that he can continue his process—while everyone knows that he shouldn’t have signed the paperwork—and delves deeper into this Swiss Wonderland.
That’s when he meets Heinreich Volmer, played by Jason Isaacs who performed as an insanely convincing villain. Volmer goes on about how amazing the water is, and then Lockhart ends up gulping it down. He drinks the Kool-Aid, almost literally. When he tries to leave, he ends up in a car accident and wakes up back at the spa with a broken leg.
Everything from this point in the film is a descent into madness. There are eels—lots and lots of eels, everywhere from a big sensory deprivation tank to the toilet tank—a spa with no doors and lots of walls, an origin story of the resort’s grounds, and a young girl (Mia Goth) who piques Lockhart’s interest for being different than everyone else there.
There’s a lot of Lockhart discovering things. He slowly seems to end up in every inch of the resort, and the movie follows him through all of it. There’s an unnerving feeling the whole time, which grows with every discovery he makes. Verbinski’s visuals are definitely influential in the panicky feeling the film is able to induce. There just comes a point where it hits peak creepy, and it definitely would have been a good time to call it quits—but it goes on for another 45 minutes and becomes absolutely ridiculous.
There’s some respect for Verbinski and Haythe, who clearly built up this idea and ran with it, and there’s some respect that a big-time studio actually went with it, but the twist was not worth the wait.
After a million and a half shots of water, lots and lots of eels, and three separate scenes that felt nearly impossible to sit through, it ended. And not with a bang, but with a small sigh.
A Cure for Wellness will probably not be remembered for its story, but it doesn’t seem that Verbinski would be particularly bothered with that. It may be remembered for its ability to keep an audience unnerved for nearly its whole 145-minute running time, or maybe just for its intense teeth gore.
Overall Grade: C
Watch The Trailer: