It’s rare that a film leaves me as puzzled as “A Cure for Wellness” managed to do. This bizarre exercise from director Gore Verbinski it not an easy movie to watch, proving quite challenging even for a seasoned viewer like me. This film is destined to inspire dozens of walkouts not only as a result of the overall uncomfortably menacing tone but the actual graphic onscreen depictions of incest, rape, animal cruelty, infants preserved in jars of formaldehyde, and one of the most horrific dental drilling torture scene since “Marathon Man.”
There’s plenty of violence, plenty of distressing deplorable behavior, and plenty of metaphorical eels. Lots and lots of eels.
When the CEO of an important New York financial firm refuses to return from a secluded, mysterious wellness center in the Swiss Alps, young executive Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is sent to bring him back. He soon finds himself trapped, being forced into the spa’s miracle water treatments by creepy Doctor Volmer (Jason Isaacs). Of course things aren’t always what they seem, and the terrifying secrets and revelations surrounding an eerie young woman (Mia Goth) soon start to make Lockhart question his own sanity.
Verbinski has a wonderful artistic eye, and this film is visually stunning and distinctly elegant in its unsettling disturbing-ness. The first half hour is absolutely drop dead gorgeous, both visually poetic as well as gracefully written. You’ll be hooked on the mystery early on; it’s the eventual reveal that’s such a major letdown.
This overly long (146 minutes) film is right past the tipping point for all but the most tolerant of viewers, a psychological thriller that is stuffed with so much surrealism and dreamy, grotesque fetish horror that it’s not a freak show you’ll soon forget. This movie is so stylish and so disturbing that it will haunt me for years. It defies classification (but the best descriptor I can muster is that it’s a mash-up of “Shutter Island” and “The Neon Demon”).
It’s an arty freak show in the grandest of the schlock tradition, a horrific horror film that’s also elegantly horrific.