A Cure for Wellness is a 2017 Gothic horror. The film is directed by Gore Verbinski (The Ring) and stars Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) and Jason Isaacs (Event Horizon). The project was an American-German co production.
Lockheart (DeHaan) is an ambitious young businessman from New York. After the CEO of his company disappears into the Swiss Alps, to a mysterious clinic, Lockheart is tasked with travelling to the clinic and retrieving Mr Pembroke. However, after being involved in a car accident trying to leave the clinic, Lockheart soon finds himself a patient under the watchful eye of the hospital director Dr Heinrich Volmer (Isaacs). Lockheart is forced to investigate the hospital in order to uncover the mysterious “cure” that they offer, as well as the sinister history of the building before he ends up becoming a permanent resident.
After languishing under the uninspired wing of Disney for over a decade, including interminable Pirates of the Caribbean sequels and the disastrous Lone Ranger (2013), Gore Verbinski has finally returned to the horror genre after his enormous contribution with The Ring (2002). It’s a shame that such an auteur moved on so quickly from the genre and, indeed, you probably didn’t know that the first 3 Pirates of the Caribbean films were directed by the same person. Happily the iconic aesthetic of The Ring carries through to A Cure and Verbinski crafts another visually astounding modern Gothic horror. The direction is flawless and the setting is breathtaking, with much of the exterior scenes being filmed on location at a German castle, and Verbinski shows a perfect command of the big screen.
In terms of the story, you might think we’re in Dr Caligari/Shutter Island territory and you’re partly right. However, there is real effort made to forge a separate path through the “lunatics are running the asylum” trope and the film certainly kept me guessing as to the true nature of the plot. A tense and mysterious atmosphere gives way to body horror as the film progresses, giving DeHaan a bit more to work with in terms of his character, though I still didn’t feel he was well cast in the lead role. Isaacs gives a much better accounting of himself as the sinister hospital director, and a cracking German accent. At around the 2 hour mark, I felt the film could have concluded very nicely, but then, the plot takes a wild turn into dangerously silly territory and they throw an awful lot of plot twists at the wall to see what sticks, which is a bit of a shame.
Overall, A Cure for Wellness is a solid effort from a very talented director which somewhat suffers from its similarities to other films and, more importantly, it’s attempts to differentiate. Come for the scenery and jaw dropping cinematography, but don’t expect to be satisfied by the wacky twists and turns that prevail. Let’s hope to see many more modern Gothic horrors, especially if they’re directed by Gore Verbinski.
*** 3 Stars
What did you think of the movie? Were you satisfied with the ending?