The films of Gore Verbinski have their audience but it’s abundantly clear when he feels more in touch with himself and when he’s willing to appease. Now heading back to the horror territory after a remake of Ringu he comes out with A Cure for Wellness, a film that seems to be drawing divided reactions from both the positive and the negative. Positive comments aim towards the atmosphere of the piece where negative comments attack it on a count of predictability in spite of a sense of visual beauty it provides. I fall on the more positive side of the fence with A Cure for Wellness, evidently a more ambitious turn on Verbinski’s own end and perhaps his most fascinating film since Rango. Amongst the more mainstream releases in years, it’s nice to see something of this sort carrying the ambition it has but it’s also rather saddening that it might likely go unnoticed at the box office.
A Cure for Wellness gets its mood set in an already simple manner, for we look upon a cityscape inside of a dark colour scheme setting the tone for what is set to be witnessed. It feels so alienating, much like our own protagonist, Lockhart, is from the world around him. He is played by Dane DeHaan. In a supposedly “normal” world, he wishes to succeed inside of his workplace and after the CEO disappears to a spa in the Swiss Alps, he is sent to retrieve him back. The primary setting over at this mysterious spa is where A Cure for Wellness finds itself at its most effective, for it creates a vibe so uncomfortable upon its appearance: arranged perfection along conforming to routine. It’s not a particularly unfamiliar concept but to see how Gore Verbinski works around this in order to create something more is where A Cure for Wellness heads out for much more.
There was a point to which I was skeptical my enjoyment of A Cure for Wellness would be hampered by a notion of predictability but it always remained a fascinating project in terms of atmosphere. Every frame of A Cure for Wellness exposes only its own visual beauty through almost Kubrickian-level cinematography but in a sense it adds more to the feeling of discomfort present, allowing the tension to run through one’s mind just as the bizarre mood would have allowed itself to present. While I was never a particularly big fan of Verbinski’s take on The Ring, so much of what worked there came back in A Cure for Wellness but perhaps on a much bigger scale for it indulges inside of its own influences. With this sort of mood, I was left to think back upon the work of Nicolas Roeg just on a count that Roeg’s style of horror revolved around a single state of the mind and what happens if it remains dominant (evidence present in Don’t Look Now, my favourite horror film of all time).
It was not a particularly scary experience but more along the lines of bizarre, although this quality kept the film so fascinating all throughout. It was present already through Gore Verbinski’s direction that the experience would already be disorienting from the moment in which Lockhart finds himself at the spa, but in a sense that it serves as a reflection of his loss of sanity all throughout. This state of deterioration allows A Cure for Wellness to make its own mystery all the more engrossing, for it never feels clear whether Lcokhart is sane or not even from the start. Verbinski knows already how to alienate his viewers, yet in a sense that it adds more to the intrigue behind what is set to happen as more hidden truths are found out about the area.
Although the film managed to catch my admiration on this count, there were points in which it had lost me. Everything prior to the film’s climax was a passionate experiment from a director who wanted to try something different for his viewers to watch, but by the time the climax hits, not only did it feel like an underwhelming payoff due to the nature of the predictability but rather instead it plays out like torture porn, relying only on misery to shock. While I like the twisted nature that Gore Verbinski is aiming for, when it comes down to Lockhart’s mysterious visions, there was a point to which they gave out too much information regarding what would happen afterwards and it was one amongst a few things I feared of the film. Said sequences weren’t nearly as shocking as they could have been but recognizing the ambition behind the project it only disappointed me that this route would have been the designated path.
Gore Verbinski has proven himself a fascinating name when looking into experiments that aspire for much more, and A Cure for Wellness, with the bizarre atmosphere and gothic references coming all across the map, show that very quality to his work. A film like this is surely set to polarize viewers for even on a count of its predictability there are so many things amidst the background that draw one’s fascination for it never feels afraid of twisting itself to reveal more as it goes on. The results aren’t always satisfactory but nevertheless what is left behind is indeed one of Verbinski’s most fascinating experiments – the sort of film I would only want to see more from his kind.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Fox.
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Screenplay by Justin Haythe
Produced by Arnon Milchan, Gore Verbinski, David Crockett
Starring Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth
Release Year: 2017
Running Time: 146 minutes