Review: A Cure for Wellness

A stinging rebuke to doctors’ claims water is good for you, the daft A Cure for Wellness is good fun if overlong. More camp than creepy in the end. 

If Jaws convinced you you’ll never go in the water again, then Gore Verbinski’s A Cure for Wellness appears to want you to stop you drinking the stuff.

Dane DeHaan plays Lockhart, a dodgy Wall Street banker type whose creative accounting is in danger of coming to light now that a big merger is in play. Rather than being crucified by the company’s equally duplicitous executives, they dispatch him a Swiss mountain wellness retreat unluckily built on the site of a burned down castle with a dark history (of course).

His mission, to retrieve Harry Groener’s Pembroke, another exec who’s had a bit of a breakdown and failed to return, so that they can pin the blame on him, throw him to the wolves and reap the financial benefits of said merger.

Upon arrival, however, things quickly take a turn for the odd very early as Jason Isaac’s creepily accented spa director Volmer espouses the benefits of the water the various zombie-like residents continually sip while forgetting any desire to ever leave. When fate sees Lockhart similarly going nowhere fast, his wandering of the tastefully tiled halls goes a bit Kubrick, with disturbing perspective-warping effects disorientating. Before long body horror breaks out, with creepy-crawlies under the skin and in the pipes, not to mention some seriously dubious dental work.

Mia Goth makes an impression as a wistful young woman who has never set foot outside the grounds and who attempts to help a disorientated Lockhart even as she instinctively protects Volmer, who has cared for her since childhood.

The director of multiple Pirates of the Carribbean films infamy, Verbinski teams up with The Lone Ranger and Revolutionary Road screenplay writer Justin Haythe on this kookily suspenseful horror, but its almost two and a half hour run time works against it, with the eerie tension of the horror-like elements losing some impact amidst great swathes of a more pedestrian mystery that trundles towards the melodramatic Phantom of the Opera-lite finale in the catacombs below.

Enjoying incredible production values and location work, A Cure for Wellness is certainly very good to look at, even if it is a bit aimless and occasionally rather too silly for its own good. And yet there’s still something quite alluring about its daftness. If only the editing had been a good deal sharper, this could have been a bona fide a cult classic.

Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords