The trailer for A Cure for Wellness boasts ‘From visionary director Gore Verbinski’. We can only assume ‘From the director of Mousehunt’ didn’t sit too well with a studio trying to market a near two-and-a-half-hour long psychological horror. Whilst the end results are far from visionary, there’s plenty of bonkers on show here to strike The Lone Ranger from immortality.
The set up comes across like The Wolf Wall Street meets Shutter Island as DiCaprio-lite Dane De Haan is sent on a mission to rescue his company’s CEO from the wilderness. However, it’s not war-ravaged Vietnam his Kurtz is stranded in, but rather a health spa at the foot of the Swiss Alps. Jason Isaacs plays the spa’s medical director, aqua-obsessed Dr. Volmer, who really loves the smell of Evian in the morning.
It’s on arrival at the ‘wellness centre’ that plot becomes secondary to atmosphere and sumptuously photographed shots of reflective surfaces. There’s more reflection here than a poetry night in a mirror factory, and at two hours twenty six minutes it’s just as patience (and patients) testing.
Most of the mid-section is spent wandering around the highly symmetrical corridors trying to solve the mystery as to why no one wants to leave. With multiple nods to The Shining as well as Eyes Wide Shut and A Clockwork Orange, combined with all the puzzle solving, it becomes a real Rubik’s Kubrick of a film.
There are two groups of people whom we would recommend avoid this film. Firstly, there’s one scene which will do you no favours if you have any dental work in the near future. Secondly, and more pertinently, suffers of misophonia (a hatred of human sounds often related to eating) are subjected to particular torment. Not a minute goes by without overzealous foley sound of water being guzzled.
In the final third, A Cure For Wellness takes a face first dive into the deep end of the eel bath. Everything is thrown into the elixir - 200 year old stories of incestuous barons, the bloodiest first period this side of Carrie and Miss Babs from Acorn Antiques. Even more bizarrely, there's a car crash involving a deer which is lifted wholesale from The Ring Two, a sequel to Verbinski’s own cursed VHS horror, itself a remake of The Ring Two director Hideo Nakata’s Japanese original Ringu.
Whilst Verbinski's film doesn’t form a coherent whole and the runtime is less than justified, that’s part of its crackers appeal. It may only reach the heights of David Cronenberg directing an Alpen advert, but when was the last time a $40 million studio horror offered musings on our over-medicated, over-analysed modern society?