A Cure for Wellness (2016)

Directed by Gore Verbinski

Written by Justin Haythe

Starring Dane DeHaan, Mia Goth, Celia Imrie and Jason Isaacs

In a tale that seems to be a new-age infected retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula meshed with Misery, a young employee is sent to a mysterious European rehabilitation center in order to deliver important documents. While there, said young man suffers an accident; becomes bedridden and captivated by the enigmatic, palatial locale and the leader of the center who has dark intentions for the visitor. Thus we end the potentially unwilling connection to classic literature and descend into a hornet’s nest of unpleasant intensity, violence and cruelty the likes of which even Eli Roth might shy away from.

A quick sidebar: I obviously love horror. I love the dark, the macabre, the unsettling. I cheer on the advent of practical gore effects and thrill when a filmmaker can utilize violence and brutality to an effective point. I don’t however, respond to violence as shock value and it is with that mindset that I personally condemn much of this film.

Gore Verbinski proves to be a very versatile director. The man has brought us family fare such as Mousehunt and Rango, all with a hint of underlying darkness. We’ve seen quirky dramedies such as The Weather Man and all-out horror with the first American remake of The Ring. The man is a talented filmmaker. This film seems a misstep as a fan of his work would go into it and not expect the excess on display. It’s a very excessive film in several ways. Aforementioned, the violence and sadistic tendencies on display seem to go a bit too far in attempting to shock the audience. You’ve got all the checkmarks here of what causes a casual moviegoer to abandon a film: animal related violence, brutal and graphic torture, rape and incest. Of course I’m never one to fully condemn a film or the filmmaker for their right to be as intense as fully allowed by the MPAA, but little of it serves to propel the film along. It conjures of sense of “wow, I can’t beleive they actually went there” but never any real reason for doing so. It just makes for an unpleasant viewing, which obliterates the whole reason why I watch movies in the first place.

Excess continues in the film’s bloated runtime. You’ll be asked to endure the mean spirited proceedings for 2 1/2 hours which is an uncalled for length for a film of this type. It’s simply not worthwhile as there’s nothing to hold us in our seats. Casual viewers will have been scared away long prior (and likely avoid the dentist for years) and more seasoned horror vets will be bored.

That’s not to say it’s a downright awful film. I didn’t enjoy it, but there are artistic merits. As previously stated, Verbinksi is a very good filmmaker and his penchant for dark imagery comes full front here. The film sports beautiful cinematography and holds the appropriate feel of underlying menace. Although the CGI effects are pretty poor (particularly the deer) the practical gore effects are well done (if you can stomach the presentation). The actors are all rock solid. Mia Goth is a trooper for what her character endures ditto for Dane DeHaan. Jason Isaacs is an understated villain actor and his mad scientist is played with flair and gusto. Kudos to the cast for professionalism and bringing an air of legitimacy.

A Cure for Wellness is a polarizing film. Some may enjoy it for its daring approach (especially for a major studio mainstream film) and it looks great. But on a personal standpoint, I was simply put off by many aspects that I personally find deplorable. I have no interest in films with animal or sexual related violence and while the torture does not bother me, it’s presented here as excessive and unnecessary. The story is weak and bloated and there’s just not much here to recommend.

Very much like the recipients of the film’s spa treatments, it’s lovely to behold but ultimately hollow and self destructive.

2.5/5 unwilling root canals

Splatter Factor:  4/5  **** ANIMAL AND SEXUAL ABUSE WARNING Have fun with this one. It’s a VERY gruesome film, coming out of left field from a director who is no stranger to darkness, but has never presented something this intense. Present we have a drawn out road collision with a deer, peeled off faces, gory attacks by flesh eating eels (echoing the TV adaption of Hannibal to an extent) and of course the scene that is not infamous but truly should be: the dental torture, presented in full, teeth shattering, blood splattering glory. That scene alone is enough to catapult this film to the upper echelon of splatter. ****

The Collective speaks:

Are you satisfied with your life? Do you wish to, perchance, prolong it? We of course can help you along that path if you but give yourselves to our fold. If you foolishly decide to remain independent from our embrace, you can spend more than 1/6th of your waking day with this unpleasant little bauble. Witness herein a carnival of carnal assault, of dental devastation, of perditious plotting. Ask yourself, “Is it Safe?” And see what your answer shall be…

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