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A Cure for Wellness – Movie Review

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A Cure for Wellness – Movie Review

Rating: C (Average)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Gore Verbinski can certainly be described as an ambitious filmmaker and one could certainly describe many of his films as theme park rides. He even had the gall to take Pirates of the Caribbean, a classic Disneyland attraction with barely any plot to speak of, and turn it into a swashbuckling adventure with many of the thrills that made the ride so endlessly popular. A Cure for Wellness continues this tradition in his work, though it disappointingly lacks the proper creepiness. The ingredients are definitely there, but the film never clicks in a meaningful way. Verbinski’s lack of restraint when editing his films also returns here and it’s especially felt in the absurd finale.

The biggest strength of A Cure for Wellness is the imagery. Bojan Bazelli’s cinematography captures some incredible shots, showing every crevice of the sanitarium Dane DeHaan’s Lockhart finds himself in. Eve Stewart’s production design makes each room distinct and their purpose immediate upon Lockhart entering them. The entire building looks like a working sanitarium one would probably go to in the German mountains. Benjamin Wallfisch’s score doesn’t go for the standard horror film soundtrack, instead applying sounds more common in fantasy pictures. Starting this review with praising the production values highlights how the film as a whole falls short with its direction and writing.

The attempts to create creepy and scary moments don’t register. Part of it is how empty the direction feels. Verbinski amps up the disgusting and gory portions, including one notable sequence in a dentist’s chair that immediately recalls Marathon Man. However, there is not much weight and the film feels hollow when it attempts to scare the audience. If his first Pirates of the Caribbean film was like a high-quality Disney ride, A Cure for Wellness is more like a low-rent carnival ride with its frequent attempts to gross out the viewer. This environment should be unsettling all throughout, but it generates a shrug most of the time.

Length has frequently been an issue with Gore Verbinski’s work and A Cure for Wellness is his latest as its almost two and a half hour length is rather excessive. There comes a point as the mystery of this building and its staff is kept more secret, that one wishes it would finally wrap up. The film does a good job of making one curious to see the big revelations and what Lockhart will discover. However, upon reaching the conclusion, Verbinski takes things a step too far. The ickiness factor is pushed past the breaking point and one wonders how a major studio was allowed to release this worldwide intact. It’s a horrifying way to end the film, but likely not in the way he intended.

A Cure for Wellness certainly has promising ideas and Gore Verbinski directs the production with plenty of flourish. However, this is a project that maybe would have been better served under the hands of somebody like Guillermo del Toro. It is also easy to make comparisons with Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, which handled the same premise with a lot more scares. The intrigue was certainly there in the plotting and James Isaacs appears to have fun chewing into his role. This is bound to find a cult audience in some years time, but it’s too long-winded and not scary enough to leave a memorable impression on this viewer.


Stefan Ellison

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