A Cure for Wellness (2017) – Film Review

I’ll come right out and say that I had really high hopes for this movie. Usually, I go into a show with low or even moderately-low expectations, and I’m (usually) surprised, if even only a little. Perhaps it was the promise of another enthralling psychological thriller (as I’m still coming off my Split high), or that Gore Verbinksi (The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean)’s name was attached to the project. Whatever it was, I gave it a right talking-to, after I got out of the film. Make of that what you will, but…I was severely let-down by this movie.

When something’s advertised one way, but is executed quite another, that’s a huge foul. The trailer for A Cure for Wellness advertised a deep, dark psychological thriller akin to something like Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, where we don’t actually know who’s telling the truth or even if we can trust our own eyes. This film had a neat-sounding premise, and was executed very well…up to a point. Like last fall’s Don’t Breathe, there was one particular scene in act three that ruined the film for me—see my review on that for more—and you’ll know what it is when you get there, if you haven’t seen the film already. It’s unnecessary, unsettling, and, overall, unfitting of the tone that the film had set, up until that scene. I’m fine with being uncomfortable during a viewing—at least I’m being affected by my cinema—but this is something else, entirely. Immediately knocked the film down a star—psychological thrillers shouldn’t need to take the gross-out route to be effective.

The twist, which I should’ve seen coming a mile-off, is neat. Again, though, there are better ways that such a thing could’ve been carried out, narratively-speaking. Hell, sitting and taking my notes after the viewing, I came up with three different ways I could’ve gotten the point across, while still keeping the rest of the story intact. There were real problems with pacing, too; plot-points felt retreaded, at times, and the film had a hard time figuring out when it should end. Even then, the conclusion was a bit…ambiguous, but not in a fulfilling, “I can figure this out on my own and be happy” way. That said, it didn’t feel like a two-hour-and-twenty-minute movie. So, there’s that…

Dane DeHaan and Jason Isaacs are both used to their full effect, in their respective roles. Their characters are such polar opposites that the tension between them carries the film through to its finale. The visuals are amazing, too; filmed on-location in Germany, the vistas are something to behold. Inside the varied sets, as well—which range from scenic courtyards to dank, underground torture dungeons—the director’s masterful camerawork comes through in the incredible internal framing, angles, and character point-of-views, all used to excellent effect.

One thing I really enjoyed about this movie is the depths that the writers looked to take the story. It’s nearly Lovecraftian in its aim; even though it didn’t quite get to that level—there are no lingering chills or existential crises happening, that I can feel—the story (left un-authored) could easily be mistaken for some of Lovecraft’s better, darker work. No film I’ve seen in recent viewings has even attempted to get on Lovecraft’s cosmically-nihilist level—for having the guts to do so, I applaud Verbinski and his crew. However, the conclusion reverts it to something akin to a SyFy Original Movie, in that the big reveal is something that’s been sampled a thousand times before…even in superhero movies. Just doesn’t carry the same weight here as it should.

I’m sad to say that Gore Verbinski’s A Cure for Wellness receives a lowly ‘Risk Assessment of **/***.

Next review: The Shack (Mar. 3rd)

Written by Evan Kern

Just a twenty-something filmie trudging through adulthood. Taking it day by day, movie by movie. Words are life...

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