Review: A Cure for Wellness

February 16, 2017
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I remember going to see The Ring in the theater with my best friend, Joey, back in 2002.  It was absolutely terrifying for me; so much so that I had nightmares about it for weeks.  It wasn’t just the story that was so scary but it was the prolonged horrific images and execution of the story that made it so scary.  It was the unique vision of director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lone Ranger) that made The Ring a modern horror classic.  When I saw that he was getting back into the horror world with A Cure for Wellness I couldn’t control my excitement.  Well, it seems that directing a horror film isn’t quite like riding a bike; not doing it for a while seems to make you rusty.

The storyline for A Cure for Wellness is complicated and very dark.  A corporate sleaze is sent to a Swiss wellness resort to retrieve his boss for concern in his wellbeing after he sends a troubling farewell letter.  Once there, the young sleaze quickly learns the bizarre and macabre history of the wellness resort and the man who runs it.  I heard from an early review that A Cure for Wellness does for wellness resorts that Psycho did for taking showers.  I don’t even know if that’s true because the concept of a wellness resort is already so creepy and foreign to most people anyway, so I’m not sure it was a smart or relatable setting to begin with.

Despite many people being in the movie, it really centers around only three actors.  Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spider-man 2, Chronicle), Jason Isaacs (the Harry Potter films, Event Horizon) and the hauntingly gorgeous Mia Goth (Nymphomaniac, Everest).  All three give great performances despite a murky plot that seems to have confusion be its primary goal and not entertainment.  DeHaan is a very effective performer but his character comes across completely unlikable and, because of that, his peril never feels scary.  Isaac is a very creepy character actor capable of crafting wonderful villains but his character’s motives and demeanor never really make him terrifying.

Verbinski is a very talented guy.  Just like with The Ring, A Cure for Wellness never runs short on it’s prolonged terrifying images, aggressive angles, or atmospheric tension.  The problem with the film falls squarely on the story.  This would have worked better as a mini-series on HBO far better than a movie that runs an exhausting two-and-a-half-hours long.  The whole thing feels more like a series of frightening scenes than a cohesive plot that makes you feel satisfied by the resolution of its ending.  You’re left with more questions than when you began but not in a cool Christopher Nolan-kinda way but more in a trying-to-fill-in-plot-holes kinda way.  This may find its audience and become a cult hit of sorts but as far as I’m concerned, A Cure for Wellness falls way short of expectations and certainly doesn’t make you feel well.