'A Cure for Wellness' is surprisingly hard to find. Despite excessive advertising (Odeon has featured it in its brochures and advertisements since October/November last year), it's only playing in one single vicinity near me (I live smack bang in the center of London); and in only one Odeon throughout the whole city. Although that may have something to do with the lukewarm reviews; I think it probably owes more to the strange content within. Make no mistake: 'ACFW' is just about as weird as a film can get whilst still remaining 'mainstream'.
|Strange.... very strange|
After arriving at the beautiful, yet more than slightly sinister establishment in question; a series of increasingly bizarre coincidences (the time regularly passing visiting hours, sickness, and a car crash) prevent Lockhart from leaving the grounds or retrieving his staff member. There's something up, and we can't quite place our finger on it. You might not believe it, but this trend continues for some 90 or so minutes until we can start to piece the film together. There are stories about the chequered past of the hospital: with a horrific series of events occurring hundreds of years ago. And, constantly, there are reminders of foul play. A steam room that Lockhart walks through quickly becomes a never ending maze of corridors that shut him in; and a floatarium experience leads him to hallucinate(?) being surrounded by a writhing mass of eels.
Of course, as you can imagine, things quickly go south. So far south, in fact, that one really has to wonder whether Mr Verbinski needs to check into an institution such as this himself.
As for the horror factor, fans of modern fare will be sorely disappointed here: there was maybe one time at most where the audience could feel genuinely scared at the material. Yet for lovers of more original material, and for fans of vintage horror classics such as 'The Shining', this film should fit the bill. For the entire 2.5 hour runtime, there's a creeping menace that fills the screen with dread. It's not so much intensity or suspense, but a cautious curosity that dares to peek round corners and through closed doors.
So yeah, it looks beautiful - but does it sound beautiful? As it happens, it does. It's conventionally creepy - like young girls creepily humming creepy. It fits beautifully with the retro stylings of the picture, without ever diverting down the neon electronic route of 'It Follows'. And, at one especially surreal moment, a Bilderbuch song plays (think post-punk art-rock dance - and decidedly modern). It stands out, because with the setting dating back hundreds of years, such a 2017 song feels almost like a 'Great Gatsby' moment. Surrounded by sinister goth-punks in a traditional bar, it's no less than magical.
|A beautiful setting.|
Are there issues? Yes. For a start, it's way too derivative of two movies. In particular, the plot smacks of 'Crimson Peak'. And whilst Verbinski takes his effort a lot deeper, darker, and more affecting than Guillermo De Toro's effort; the essential plot beats are there. If 'A Cure for Wellness' hasn't been influenced by it, then I'll be incredibly surprised. The second is 'Shutter Island'. There's the setting, the unease, the central mystery to uncover, and the jutting in and out of insanity. Again, an incredibly accurate match. I'm willing to concede that with this movie, we get something a lot more extreme than either of these two influences; but there's just too much in common to dismiss the resemblance. Secondly, for some it may drag on for too long. This movie is two and a half hours in length - a colossal time for a horror flick to run to. If you're not the sort of person who enjoys a slow-burn, technical piece of work - and favors something more fast-paced then this isn't one for you. And, finally, I think there's a lot of unnecessary exposition that could be trimmed from the start of the film (what's that opening scene, anyway).
|A unique blockbuster horror experience.|
|'A Cure for Wellness' gets 4 stars!|