Director Gore Verbinski’s latest venture is a masterclass of paranoia and eeriness that plays perfectly to create a constant, unnerving sense of dread. Even though your eyes are soaking in some gorgeous shots of beautiful landscapes, buildings and situations, the undeniable horror of the narrative constantly bubbles underneath. This creates a wonderful thriller full of drama that delivers a crescendo of tension and terror.
An ambitious company executive named Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is tasked with going to the Swiss Alps to bring back his CEO, who has checked himself into a remote ‘wellness’ institute. Once there, Lockhart begins to get suspicious of the spa and its staff. He soon finds out that leaving the institute will be difficult as he’s diagnosed with a sickness that requires treatment. As he frantically looks to uncover the secrets of the facility run by the mysterious Volmer (Jason Isaacs), Lockhart makes some shocking discoveries.
Having worked on the likes of The Ring, Rango and no less than three Pirates of the Caribbean movies (Black Pearl, Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End), Verbinski clearly knows how to conjure up startling and engaging imagery. It’s this key-skill that plays such a pivotal role in the success of A Cure for Wellness. His keen eye couples well with his and Justin Haythe’s puzzle-like script to create a story that keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat throughout. That’s quite an achievement for a film with a runtime of almost two and a half hours.
Dane DeHaan makes for a great leading man and he leads the film exceptionally well. Harry Potter favourite Jason Isaacs does a brilliant job as the head of the clinic and Mia Goth hands in a nuanced performance as Hannah, a young patient who befriends Lockhart. Elsewhere, there are strong supporting turns from Celia Imrie, Ivo Nandi, Buffy alumni Harry Groener and a great cameo from the amazing Susanne Wuest, whose role should have been much bigger.
The final act just goes full on crazy and whilst that will alienate quite a few people, I actually found it to be quite refreshing. It’s sensationally over-the-top of course, but that adds a certain charm to the film (even though its subject matter will make you throw up in your mouth). It’s all orchestrated with so much passion and audacity that it’s hard to not be impressed by its sheer gall.
A Cure for Wellness is a gorgeously shot thriller that equals its beauty in slow-burn tension. The performances are strong, the story is interesting and the shocks are plentiful. It’s also really refreshing to have a thriller/horror that doesn’t rely on loud bang scares at all. Atmosphere is built up through character development and smart visuals. Modern horror can learn a lot from A Cure for Wellness and its approach, which makes its audience uneasy in a far more effective and satisfying way. It certainly won’t be for everyone but A Cure for Wellness is an uneasy, frightening and very enjoyable film, even if the end leaves you questioning a few plot twists.
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth, Ivo Nandi, Adrian Schiller, Celia Imrie, Harry Groener, David Bishins, Lisa Banes, Carl Lumbly, Johannes Krisch, Rebecca Street, Susanne Wuest Director: Gore Verbinski Writer: Justin Haythe, Gore Verbinski Released By: 20th Century Fox Certificate: 18 Duration: 146 mins Release Date: 24th February 2017