A Cure for Wellness,
Directed by Gore Verbinski,
Starring Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth, Celia Imrie, Ivo Nandi, Adrian Schiller
Gore Verbinski brings a chilling tale of what really happens at spa and health treatment centres. A young executive at a large investment company is sent to a health retreat to bring back their CEO, who has told the board of the company he may never return. When Lockhart gets to the Treatment Centre he finds the richest people in the world living in their dressing gowns, peaceful, and happy, but something isn’t sitting right. As he tries to make contact with the CEO who is staying there he keeps running into the politest brick walls you can find. He becomes a patient at the hospital after a car crash and things twist around constantly. An enigmatic young girl, the polite and yet sinister head of the institute, and a history from the 1800s that may be effecting everyone there.
The simple way to describe this film to you is that it’s like a potion – take a pinch of Dark City, a sprinkle of Crimson Peak, and a dash of David Lynch, you mix that around with the horror that is spa treatment and people wanting you to be well, and you’ve got one of the strangest films that I’ve enjoyed in a long time.
Dean DeHaan plays Lockhart and could play this part in his sleep, the ambitious investment executive who has to be the retriever of the CEO, who needs to change his stubborn business attitude in order to get his boss out of the clutches of the institute. Jason Isaacs plays the sinister head of the institute; he’s the steady hand in these sort of films, and can move between hero and villain by the loss of a smile. Playing Hannah is Mia Goth, aptly named, and has that strange Tim Burton girl thing going. She doesn’t have much to say but that blank expression and innocence is the perfect pattern for that character, and you know that the story will hinge on Hannah at some point.
Tim Burton kept coming back to my mind as I watched this, with elements of Twin Peaks dropping in too. But it’s far better than a lot of what Burton has produced through the years, while more understandable than the brilliant Twin Peaks. The one thing is that if you are one of those people who like to waste their cinema cash and look down at their phone screens during the film, then this is probably not for you – you have to pay attention during the whole film. You’ll miss the insanity that will throw up a plot point that if you do miss it, you’ll be lost. There are true creepy moments that shook me, a battered veteran of these types of films, and for that reason it will always be in my heart.
There are some huge problems though. While the visual aspect of the film cannot be faulted by me – it’s Gore Verbinski so the very least it’s going to look good – the story feels like it just plods along during a few different moments of the film. The film is far from a disaster, but also far from what it could have been. The parts of the film that work well, well they work extremely well, and then there are moments that leave you wondering when they are going to pull the finger out and get on with it. At one point, as the film goes into the supernatural elements of the story, moving through the psychological thriller aspect, you start to wish the first two thirds of the film were better. You will figure out most of what is going on during the finale but there is a great feeling that your time during the plodding parts of the film were well spent.
I would in all honesty go back to the cinema to see this on release, I’m sure my friends and family that share my interest in the tone and feeling of these types of films, will want to see it. So I can forgive the flaws and still love the film.