REVIEW: A Cure For Wellness (2017)

I can’t lie – when I was going in to see A Cure For Wellness, I was very, very excited. The trailer looked like the psychological horror film that I’d been waiting for, and it had all the right ingredients: Gore Verbinski at the helm with cinematographer Bojan Bazelli (they worked together on The Ring (2002), one of the greatest horror remakes ever made) and Dane DeHaan starring – a criminally underrated and under-utilized actor who repeatedly impressed me in Chronicle (2012) and Kill Your Darlings (2013). Did I leave disappointed?

The plot to A Cure for Wellness was just as intriguing: a young executive, Lockhart (DeHaan), travels to a wellness center in the Swiss Alps to retrieve his company’s MIA CEO (Harry Groener). In the process, he becomes entangled in the complex history of the facility, as well as that of its owner, the enigmatic Dr. Heinreich Volmer (Jason Isaacs) and a mysterious girl named Hannah (Mia Goth). Sounds like a recipe for some nice, ripe psychological horror, right?

And ripe it is: the entire film is beautifully shot, with great care taken to set the mood and atmosphere of the strange, mysterious wellness center. If you’ve ever seen Gore Verbinski’s The Ring, you most likely remember it for its imagery and an atmosphere that seems almost suffocating with dread. Verbinski is in similar form here, and as our hero plunges deeper into the mystery behind the facility, the director’s distinct, cinematic style gets to come out in awesome, bizarre ways. There’s plenty of dream sequences here, and also plenty of eels. That’s the most I’ll say about it.

The acting here is quite excellent as well from everyone involved. Jason Isaacs, whom I had only known as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter series of films, gives a much more subtle performance in A Cure for Wellness. Although he certainly has moments where he gets to chew the scenery, he does so only when necessary – it was nice to see another side of his acting ability. DeHaan, who plays his role with an acute suspicion, still shows his audience a character that is believable and lets us get invested. We’re right there with him as more and more of the puzzle comes together, and his curiosity and need to get to the bottom of this mystery oftentimes mirrors our own.

This leads to one of the biggest critiques of A Cure For Wellness: the length. At nearly two and a half hours, this is a film that takes its damn time to build the suspense, letting the audience in a teeny tiny bit at a time. For many viewers, this is a story that could have been told in half the time. The film’s third act, despite tidily tying up its plot, does feel like it threatens to completely de-rail all of the suspense that the film had going for it.

However, for me, this is the intention of the film: it’s a mystery, one that Lockhart, along with the viewer, is given to solve and discover. A Cure for Wellness relishes in every detail of its story, and for a big-budget Hollywood film, is something that is rarely seen attempted, especially given the film’s amount of subtext about corporate life and how subtly it runs through the film’s narrative. For this reviewer, its slow, deliberate pace was much appreciated.

Final thoughts:

If you’re a fan of Gore Verbinski’s previous films, then you’ll absolutely find something to love about A Cure For Wellness. Although it is a long journey, it is one filled with awesome imagery, solid acting, and plenty of subtext to invite future viewings. Definitely worth checking out.

About Seth Hansen

Seth is a writer and musician living in Los Angeles. When not explaining to strangers why John Carpenter's The Thing is the greatest horror movie ever made (trust me, it is), he's usually playing violin or hanging out in record store clearance sections. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook!

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