Gore Verbinski is a talented director who landed in movie jail with his bloated The Lone Ranger for Disney. But he hasn’t fared much better by shifting from Westerns to the horror genre with the intriguingly titled A Cure For Wellness, which at 146 minutes takes itself way too seriously while also taking its time. As I say in my video review above, even cutting 40 or 50 minutes and tightening this thing to resemble a B-horror thriller might not have made this confused story any better, but it certainly would have made it shorter. As it is, I fear audiences will be looking at their watches rather than the screen.
What the film also desperately needs to carry something of this ilk is a major star like a Leonardo DiCaprio in his Shutter Island phase (a movie with some similarity but so much better). Unfortunately, much of it is on the shoulders of Dane DeHaan who, aside from looking like he is still in high school, does not have the weight or gravitas to be convincing in the least as this young stockbroker sent to Europe on a mission to bring back the CEO of his troubled financial services company. Plot-wise, that company has just gotten into some deep legal doo-doo, and its shifty board is looking to hang it on the now-AWOL CEO Harold Pembroke (Harry Groener), who has disappeared into the Swiss Alps at a spa that caters to older people by selling the idea of its certain brand of water enabling a kind of fountain of youth. Of course there is more in this water than advertised. The company execs send Lockhart over there to retrieve the boss and bring him back for his comeuppance.
This being the kind of movie it is means that won’t be as easy as it sounds, as Lockhart soon finds out when the sheer mystery and creepiness of the place and its inhabitants start bubbling to the surface. A weird young girl named Hannah (Mia Goth, great name) warns ominously that he won’t be leaving the place, which only makes him curiouser and curiouser about what is going on there. And where oh where is Pembroke? Dominating all of this is the proprietor of the sprawling spa, a larger-than-life guy named Volmer, played to the hilt by Jason Isaacs. He takes Lockhart under his wing, seeing easy prey, but like everything else in this overloooooong saga, he takes his sweet time to really reveal his evil sinister intentions. It all has to do with that water and a diabolical human experiment.
If this movie weren’t trying so hard to look like a Class-A flick, it could have been more like the kind of fun, scary indies Roger Corman regularly served up with a Vincent Price or a Boris Karloff playing the maniacal crazy person out to be Master of the World. I won’t drop any spoilers here except to say that things really rocket out of control in the film’s final third (which feels like it will never come). Isaacs deserves some sort of medal for keeping a straight face through it all, while DeHaan, a fine actor when the role fits, is way out of his league here.
To be fair, few actors could have pulled off what Verbinski asks him to do. To give credit where credit is due, Verbinski collaborated on cooking up the story with the film’s screenwriter Justin Haythe. It all opens with great style amidst the skyscrapers of a seemingly empty city and was lavishly photographed by Bojan Bozelli, who also has much to work with in the stunning European location. Eve Stewart’s production design also is aces, but if there is a real star on board, it is the gorgeously creepy musical score by Benjamin Wallfisch. Alas, the strong production values can’t make up for the weak execution. Producers are New Regency’s Arnon Milchan, David Crockett and Verbinski. 20th Century Fox releases it today.
Do you plan to see A Cure For Wellness? Let us know what you think.