By Michelle Reynolds, Staff Writer
And Sean Rolwing, Staff Writer
Dark and beautifully twisted. I’m not talking about a dimly lit staircase, I’m talking about the latest movie: “A Cure for Wellness.” Nevertheless, you’ll feel yourself descending into a horrifying madness of its own creation as you watch layer after layer of this story unfold. From the director who brought you the 2002 movie “The Ring,” Gore Verbinski now presents a bold new mystery that with every ticking minute sucks you deeper into the picturesque and haunting world he created. With a name like “Gore,” you know the mystery has to be chilling.
Released on February 17, “A Cure for Wellness” follows Lockhart, a company man rising to the upper echelons of the business world, who is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from a mysterious “wellness center” nestled in a remote village of the Swiss Alps. As he arrives, he is greeted by golden, sunlit lawns and laughing, contented patients. However, Lockhart soon comes to suspect that the miraculous treatments are not what they may seem. While trying to unravel the center’s terrifying secrets, Lockhart begins to believe that his own sanity may be at stake. Indeed, he soon finds himself diagnosed with the same curious illness trapping all of the patients within its walls. Oblivious to the evils of their new home, they all insist that they are sick and are in need of “The Cure,” which only the center can provide.
Regardless of the darkness hidden underneath, every scene of the movie is shockingly beautiful. Stunning. Marvelous. Astonishing. There are not enough words to describe the breathtaking scenery of this movie. Filmed in Germany, this movie is a treat for the eyes, with each scene feeling like it could be a screensaver.
It is a far cry from the visually disturbing images of your average slasher film. In fact, throughout the majority of the film, it is rare to find something openly terrifying. Instead, it is the ever-growing sense of unease hidden underneath the beauty of the images that causes the audience to feel so much dramatic tension. The feeling is similar to that horrible pain in your gut as you wait in a dentist’s office. It is this contrast between the two that makes each shot, whether it is of a Swiss sunset or a burning mansion, so unsettling. This builds ceaselessly, culminating in a dramatic ending reminiscent of classic horror movies from an earlier generation.
“A Cure for Wellness” is lengthy at 146 minutes, which feels every bit as long as it sounds. But although the plot is drawn out and paced a little slowly at times, its intensity keeps you drawn in, and its mystery only keeps growing. Small details are constantly dropped to the audience throughout, all building toward something greater, even if that something can be a little unclear at times.
“A Cure for Wellness” is complex in thought, almost a little too complex at times, leaving some scratching their heads. If asked to summarize this movie in one word, that word would be “confusion.” Verbinski took what could have been a simple plot and somehow made it ridiculously complicated, leaving many questions unanswered. However, even though this gothic masterpiece is extremely complex, I feel the more times you watch it, the more you will pick up on clues you missed the first time.
Also, while many people enjoy this mystery movie, the last 20 minutes could make some viewers angry and uncomfortable, so please carefully read the rating for this movie. “A Cure for Wellness” is rated R for disturbing violent content and images, and includes some sexual content involving assault, nudity, and language.
Despite its complexity and use of graphic images, the saving grace of this film was the intensity of the actors’ performances. Dane DeHaan, who took the part of Lockhart, captivated the audience with the realism of his work. His emotional reactions always seemed authentic, unlike many actors of the horror genre. Another pleasant surprise was the performance of Jason Isaacs as the owner and director of the wellness center. Although his role wasn’t shown in any of the film’s extensive advertising, the amount of work that he put into the movie was self-evident: He stole away your attention every time he entered the frame. Even lesser-known actress Mia Goth competed for attention and successfully portrayed innocence amidst evil while simultaneously emanating an air of secrecy and eeriness.
It is apparent that, following his recent flop, “The Lone Ranger,” Verbinski attempted to reach back to his roots in the horror genre with this carefully crafted tale. Whether he accomplished this is difficult to determine. Receiving only a 40 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.6 out of 10 on IMDB, “A Cure for Wellness” is definitely far from “family-friendly” and will not be everybody’s cup of tea. However, if you like beautifully disturbing plots with equally beautifully scenery, this movie is sure to please.