Cinematic Releases: A Cure for Wellness (2017) - Reviewed

It has been fifteen years since American film director Gore Verbinski exploded into the mainstream Hollywood scene with his 2002 remake of the Japanese horror film The Ring, effectively catapulting him into the pantheon of the highest grossing filmmakers in the world.  But after that, horror seemed to be over for him.  Focusing instead on three Disney Pirates of the Caribbean pictures, a stab at drama with The Weather Man, the animated feature Rango before closing on the commercially unsuccessful Disney western The Lone Ranger, Verbinski’s career went from playing in the big leagues to hitting a bit of a slump. 

In what seems to be an effort to wipe the slate clean with a fresh start, Verbinski has returned to the horror scene with his psychological thriller A Cure for Wellness, a film that channels much of the imagery from The Ring into what could well be the most ferociously unsettling and truly disgusting horror film of 2017!  The story of young business executive Mr. Lockhart (Dane DeHaan from Chronicle) who is assigned to retrieve the company’s CEO from a remote wellness center in the Swiss Alps which may or may not be as it appears, A Cure for Wellness is a visually stunning effort with brilliant production design and ornate camerawork by longtime cinematographer Bojan Bazelli. 

While not nearly as frightening as The Ring, his latest German-American co-production like the leeches and eels creeping through the water of the bathtubs, isolation tanks and swimming pools throughout this hard R rated, genuinely repulsive shocker will get under your skin.  Just when you think, no, the film isn’t going to go there, it does.  There are haunted and horrific images contained therein Verbinski’s film I won’t be able to get out of my head for a very long time.  Not unlike Christophe Gans’ adaptation of the videogame Silent Hill, the film functions like a tapestry of obscene, often repulsive imagery while still managing to tell a captivating story of a young man in over his head at an institution where it is unclear whether or not the experimental treatments are helpful or harmful. 

Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?!!!!

In Verbinski’s oeuvre, though the final act tends toward final showdown clich├ęs, A Cure for Wellness is easily the director’s most ambitious and daring work to date.  Treading a fine line between unease and tugging at the gag reflexes with scenes that run the risk of ejecting the faint hearted from their theater seats, one must go into Verbinski’s film with their guard up.  Though it might be too extreme for some and too drawn out for others, spanning nearly two and a half hours, A Cure for Wellness pulls no punches with of the most shocking scenes pushed right in your face.  That a big budget mainstream effort by a major commercial director pushes as many boundaries as this one does is kind of miraculous in and of itself.  Not for everyone but not to be missed by Verbinski and horror fans.  Just don’t say I didn’t warn you if you wind up regurgitating your popcorn.


- Andrew Kotwicki