A Cure for Wellness is an ambitious film. It takes the hauntingly beautiful gothic atmosphere of classic monster movies and builds its own devious world around them. The only problem is that it is agonizingly slow in its construction, and the absurdity of its story overshadows its beauty. There are aspects worth admiring, however.
Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is an ambitious executive on Wall Street who spends his days and nights climbing the corporate ladder at his company. On the verge of a big merger, Lockhart is tasked with travelling to a “wellness center” in the Swiss Alps to retrieve the company’s CEO in order to sign over some important documents. Shortly after he arrives he discovers that all is not what it seems at the center and that the people who come to get better rarely leave.
A Cure for Wellness immediately gives off strong Shutter Island meets The Shining vibes with its vast mental institution setting and disturbing patient experiments. It’s all extremely creepy and does a good job at putting you at unease. The Swiss Alps makes for a gorgeous backdrop while the old institution itself brings back fears of medieval torture. One scene that stands out in particular is when Lockhart is given an unnecessary dental exam. Suffice to say if you weren’t already afraid of dentists before you most definitely will be after.
The film has these moments that stand out well but they are few and far between. The majority of the film is a slow burn as Lockhart creeps around the facility trying to uncover the mystery of what’s going on. It’s a scenario that repeats itself four or five times before anything starts to get resolved.
When the film finally does reach its climax, it kicks things into overdrive with an absolutely absurd third act that seems like it was pulled out of nowhere. Incest, immortality, and a creepy cult are not exactly where I expected the film to go. It feels rushed with overly dramatic bits of action that fail to capture the same disturbing vibe of what preceded it. At nearly two and a half hours long, the film lacks any substantial payoff. It slowly builds and builds and then just crumbles in an instant.
I love A Cure for Wellness’s style, but style alone isn’t enough to carry a film. Gore Verbinski does an adequate job at creating something original and, at times, creepy but struggles to build any momentum throughout the film. There are some memorable moments, they just just come at a drip’s pace.