Gore Verbinski is a director people love to hate, he made one kind of great film before which was the first Pirates of the Caribbean was people forget due to the endless amount of sequels (I tuned out after the first sequel) was a truly original breath of fresh air. His last film was the much-publicized flop the reimagining of The Lone Ranger which reunited him with Johnny Depp. A Cure for Wellness is the kind of film you make after a flop because I don’t give two fucks anymore and all the better for it.
A Cure for Wellness is about the young executive of a large financial company Mr. Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) who is sent by his company to fetch Pembroke because he needs to sign off on a merger. The catch is Pembroke is at this mysterious “wellness” clinic up in the Swiss Alps. Lockhart suffers an accident after a unfruitful meeting with the doctors at the clinic and founds himself with a broken leg held up at the clinic. He soon finds himself unraveling the sinister secrets of the clinic which involves water and eels and much more. He also meets the young woman Hannah (Mia Goth) who seems like one of the twins from The Shining but grown up.
Verbinski and his co-screenwriter Justin Haythe wear their cinematic and literary influences on it’s sleeves and then some. It borrows heavily from The Shining, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Edgar Allan Poe and probably most important from H. P. Lovecraft. The film has a sense of dread of unexplainable horror which was Lovecraft’s bread and butter. It also feels like a Guillermo Del Toro remake of Martin Scorsese’s woefully underrated Shutter Island and given the visual splendor of A Cure for Wellness you do get the feeling if a director like Del Toro was helming the proceedings it would be a masterpiece.
The film however is deeply flawed and suffers from being overly long it runs for the better part of two and a half hours and unless your Kubrick horrors films should be 100 minutes at the maximum. It doesn’t quite go to the levels of Lovecraftian weirdness as I would’ve liked and the ending is completely baffling and anti-climatic. Dane DeHaan is an actor I’m still not convinced can carry a film by himself even though he is being pushed down our throats but maybe Valerian will change all that. He also seems too young to be a hotshot Wall Street financial guy but that’s somewhat explained by a traumatic event in the character’s past.
Overall A Cure for Wellness is an imaginative and ambitious Gothic horror film tinged with science fiction. It’s not perfect but for such a mainstream director like Verbinski attempting to doing something challenging and full of atmosphere which is more suited to David Cronenberg should be celebrated. It also boasts a nice sinister turn from Jason Isaacs as Dr. Heinreich Volmer which couldn’t be a more Villainy name if they tried. The disc is fairly barebones with a deleted scene how on earth there was one deleted scene is beyond me. Don’t forget to look closely at your water next time you drink it.