A Cure for Wellness - A Riveting Concept Torn to Shreds
Gore Verbinski's film is another loss taken by the horror genre. There are minor spoilers in this review.
Ever since M. Night Shyamalan’s highly anticipated, yet largely disappointing, film “Split,” and a plethora of insipid horror films prior, the genre has been in desperate need of a revival. After the release of its galvanizing trailer, “A Cure for Wellness” seemed to provide a glimmer of hope. Unfortunately, the only recognition this film deserves lies in its advertising and cinematography. It follows Lockhart, an ambitious, detestable young businessman, who is sent to retrieve a mysterious colleague from a remote sanitorium in Switzerland. After a brutal car accident with a deer on his way down the mountain on which the sanitorium rests, Lockhart is forced to stay at the ominous hospital until his broken leg heals. As if the leg would not eventually heal on its own, the foreman of the sanitorium offers Lockhart “the cure,” an inauspicious ointment for some unknown disease. From this point on, grotesque, confusing plot branches emerge. After months of anticipation, this film was nothing but another loss for the horror genre.
While there are some intriguing qualities, none of them are rooted in the plot or characters, and its only redeeming caliber is the spectacular work of cinematographer Bojan Bazelli, who managed to make an otherwise appalling movie bearable. As in most horror films, atmosphere is very important to successful execution, particularly in a grating, bold composition such as this. Bazelli’s ability to capture the trepidation of the setting is the film’s only saving grace. Regardless of the fear it actually creates, which is none, it loosely collars the viewer’s attention simply in part to Bazelli’s handiwork. This film screams at its creators to be something as prodigiously sinister as Scorsese’s “Shutter Island,” yet instead appears as exclusively an off-brand.
Lack of simplicity, and an overbearing need to stand out, is the cause of this film’s imminent downfall. Where it could be simple and terrifying, it is instead perplexing and farcical, as it attempts to entwine three separate subplots without doing so in any sensical manner, and by the end of the film, it is still bafflingly unclear what “the cure” even is. In fact, by the climax, it becomes very clear that the entire premise of the film is not ingrained in any form of reason. The plot deviates so far from its seed that it becomes almost unrecognizable, wasting an engrossing concept with over-complication and obscenity. In fact, the indolence of replacing genuine fright with bawdiness is one of the most frustrating undoings of this film. For its majority, the film attempts to shock its audience with derisive, disgusting scenes, many of which included symbolically useless eels and ludicrous torture. None of what happens is anything that has not been done before, meaning that this film did not only fail to scare its audience, but it failed to shock it. It simply repulses. Not one time does it induce fear of any sort, though it does induce the uncomfortable cringe of aversion. There were more rape scenes, old man behinds, and unnecessary sex scenes in this movie than there were scares. It is disclosed at the end of the film that the entire purpose of the cult is to fuel and cache the antagonist’s horrible desires in a weak attempt to connect the settlement’s backstory to its present. This is just one of a multitude of plot deviations that make the film so incredibly confusing and outlandish.
This film’s star does not bring any solace. Dane DeHaan produces a surprisingly disappointing performance, as each one of his lines seems to be laced with timidity and inelegance. That being said, full blame cannot be placed upon DeHaan, as the dialogue he attempts to execute is just as awkward as his delivery. On many occasions, it was unrealistic and, again, far over-exaggerated. Character development was virtually nonexistent, as the protagonist alters his willingness to accept “the cure” rapidly, practically from scene to scene. There is not a clear reason for the poorness of DeHaan’s performance or the dialogue, as the character itself is very simple and easy to connect to. Fortunately for DeHaan and the writers of this film, Jason Isaacs, known best as “Lucius Malfoy,” somewhat makes up for the lack of talent. His connectedness to the role was evident, and ended up being a driving force behind what little intrigue the film catalyzes. Nonetheless, the film falls short of its expected quality, although it is unsure whether DiCaprio could have even saved it.
The sheer abundance of horror movie cliches exhibited throughout the film is not only disheartening, but simply distasteful, especially coming from a film that originally appeared to be so different from other horror flicks. Among others, these cliches include lighting a dark path with a lighter, high-pitched, drawn out soundtracks, and the antagonist dramatically tearing off a mask to reveal a gargoyle-esque face. There are no surprises or variances in the events of this film, and it relies heavily on classic, overused commons among its intended genre, while attempting to be a film of its own. Revealing its villain to be a monster is possibly the most laughable piece of the entire film, as it does not have any place in the plot nor the aesthetic.
In its advertisements, this film was described to have “echoes of ‘The Shining.’” To so much as compare this film to such a masterpiece is a disgrace to Kubrick, as this composition was not in the same atmosphere as any of Kubrick’s films. If anything, it resembled Cronenberg’s underwhelming sci-fi “Antiviral.” Furthermore, this film’s trailer warns that you should “not expect to sleep” after watching the film. You will not sleep well after seeing it. Not because of the movie itself, but because you will wonder why you wasted twelve dollars and three hours of your time.