Lunacy (noun): extreme folly or eccentricity.
To run that definition over Gore Verbinksi’s new horror epic as a cohesive, “lunatic”, work feels almost redundant due to the impossible about-turns and personality switches A Cure for Wellness takes throughout its imposing near two-and-a-half-hour running time.
In a time where trailers seemingly tell viewers the entire plot, it’s almost commendable that the classy, broody clips used in preview here showcased something completely different to what you were to be served. Imagine being promised a Chateaubriand steak before having a decomposing Big Mac thrown at your chops.
The film starts by drawing parallels to Apocalypse Now, with the perma-hyped Dane DeHaan our protagonist Lockhart here making his way to a picturesque Swiss retreat looking for his very own Col. Kurtz, the unraveling CEO of his company. Things start immensely promisingly, an enveloping narrative developing as Lockhart starts to feel that something is amiss with the treatments at this idyllic health centre. Intrigue is in abundance alongside a quite mesmeric visual display, with iconic imagery peppering the film’s first half. It knows its limitations but it’s solid noir. Think Shutter Island dressed up in fancy clothes, albeit with a little less between the ears, and you’re nearly there.
Though as the quote goes, if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you, and as Lockhart turns the mirror on himself and his own psyche, the film becomes too self-aware and falls spectacularly into the void, with its conclusion leaving an immensely bad taste.
Having pirated his way around the Caribbean for much of the noughties, Verbinski’s return to horror is a complete mess. With its impressive first half, A Cure for Wellness promises a lot, though in time it proves to be placebo with a ludicrous ending leaving no room for remedy.
CAST: Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth, Celia Imrie
DIRECTOR: Gore Verbinski
WRITERS: Justin Haythe (story and screenplay), Gore Verbinski (story)
SYNOPSIS: An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps. He soon suspects that the spa’s miraculous treatments are not what they seem. When he begins to unravel its terrifying secrets, his sanity is tested, as he finds himself diagnosed with the same curious illness that keeps all the guests here longing for the cure.