A Cure for Wellness
dir Gore Verbinski
scr Justin Haythe
prd David Crockett, Arnon Milchan, Gore Verbinski
with Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth, Ivo Nandi, Adrian Schiller, Celia Imrie, Harry Groener, Tomas Norstrom, Ashok Mandanna, Magnus Krepper, David Bishins, Lisa Banes
release US 17.Feb.17, UK 24.Feb.17
17/US Regency 2h26
A Cure for Wellness
Someone is watching me: DeHaan

isaacs goth imrie
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
A Cure for Wellness A strong visual sensibility is almost enough to sustain this far too long horror freak-out. Director Gore Verbinski and writer Justin Haythe might have got away with it if they bothered to maintain the story's deeper themes right to the end. But no, they let the movie get simpler, and sillier, as it goes along, abandoning any interesting ideas about the stresses of modern life for easy referential spookiness.

Lockhart (DeHaan) is a young workaholic New York broker sent to track down his boss (Groener), who has gone native in an isolated Swiss sanatorium. As he approaches the castle, repeated warnings that he will never leave fail to impress him, so the pushy Lockhart is unprepared for the sinister machinations of Dr Volmer (Isaacs) and his faithful staff. The spa has a fiery past, there are strange noises and an eerily naive young woman (Goth) is roaming around. And before he realises what has happened, Lockart discovers that he has now become a patient.

Verbinski gleefully fills every scene with grotesque imagery designed specifically to give the audience the willies. The primary weapons in his arsenal are eels, which appear in every size and place imaginable, worming their way into a couple of seriously nasty moments. That they make no real sense is beside the point. The plot is a rather lazy hodgepodge of horror movie tropes thrown together with little narrative coherence. But then, that isn't the film's main goal.

DeHaan is a likeable protagonist, a scrawny, pasty young banker who can't quite grasp that he's in way over his head. He plays the role perfectly as an entitled guy for whom the rules simply can't apply. Isaacs is terrific as the cool-headed Volmer, right up to the point where things get a bit too yucky. And Goth is solid as the innocent young woman who clearly has no idea of her pivotal role in the nutty goings on.

As the story resolves itself, Verbinski and Haythe overstate the key plot points in ways that only emphasise how ludicrous they are. There's also the sense that they are taking all of this far too seriously (the brief appearances by the local villagers could have been played for laughs rather than cruelty). And the nearly two and a half hour length leaves the movie feeling badly repetitive. But its whizzy camerawork, production design and effects are inventive and enjoyable while they last.

cert 18 themes, language, violence, sexuality 21.Feb.17

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