Posted Feb 28 2017

A Cure For Wellness - This Retro-Gothic Movie Doesn't Rock

Dir: Gore Verbinski

Starring Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth, Celia Imrie

The movie that asks the questions – will Dane DeHaan ever have the career we once foresaw for him? And can Gore Verbinski ever recover from the taint that accompanied the humungous flop that was The Lone Ranger (which was actually quite good)? The answer to both these question is - not if they’re counting on the curiously unbalanced though at times interesting horror melange that is The Cure For Wellness.

Verbinski’s retro thriller starts with a phalanx of ultra modern grey-green towering New York skyscrapers before rapidly relocating to the base of the Swiss Alps, complete with a hill top castle that bears remarkably similarity to the matte painting of Young Frankenstein, and a lilting score that seems right out of a 1970s European giallo movie.

Into said milieu arrives DeHaan’s American Wall Street type looking for a superior Wall Street type who has retreated to the mountain top castle/clinic that comes complete with a history of dodgy mad scientist incestuous Barons being burned by the local villagers below. Oh, and suspicious spa treatments from hello-to-Jason Isaacs as a decidedly dodgy Germanic doctor, that seem to consist of a water only diet and eels. Plenty of eels.

If Verbinski’s film had any sense of pace it would find that it has the production design and the sense of intrigue needed for such apiece as this, already in place. As it is, it’s a decidedly old fashioned and gothic number, awash with recognisable genre tropes, and owing a clear debt to pivotal pieces by Fuller, Argento and more than anything Scorsese’s Shutter Island. Indeed, give that Scorsese’s movie is by far the most recent and best known of Wellness’ obvious antecedents, it’s surprising that the director is so eager to embrace it so overtly, casting Leo-looky-likey DeHaan, and then choosing to give him the same wardrobe.

But, as we suggested above, Verbinski lacks Scorsese’s ability to keep his movie moving, dragging where it should breeze along, sacrificing tension where it needs to build it. And even when it reaches some sort of climax, it turns out there’s another 30 minutes to go and what was implausible but entertaining, simply becomes high camp and downright silly.

We don’t normally like to berate anyone for the running time of their work. A decent filmmaker is certainly giving us the version he/she/they/it intended. But if someone were to come up with a 90-minute non-director’s cut of The Cure For Wellness, it might just be worth seeing.

A Cure For Wellness poster

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