Maybe it's easy to make a scary movie about a hospital. While going there is necessary to get better, there are constant reminders of pain and mortality.
Therefore, director Gore Verbinski has a bit of a head start with his latest offering, A Cure for Wellness, but by placement of his facility in the scenic Alps instead of a crowded city, one of the greatest dangers is oddly not wanting to recover.
This appears to have happened to a Wall Street CEO named Pembroke (Harry Groener). He decides to take a mental and physical health break shortly before his firm is preparing to merge with another, guaranteeing all parties involved lucrative returns.
The money doesn't seem to have made anyone at the office happy. One banker has even had a fatal heart attack while working after hours. Having made no clear plans for succession and having sent a bizarre handwritten note that indicates Pembroke is content in Europe and has no desire to return, the partners find themselves more alarmed than comforted by Pembroke's spa visit.
If the hospital seems palatial and serene, the Big Apple is overwhelmed with turmoil. Pembroke's partners have discovered some irregularities in the paperwork and must have his signature to close the deal.
The partners send an ambitious young employee named Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) to bring Pembroke back. Despite the scenery, Lockhart is too absorbed in his laptop to pay any attention to his surroundings. By the time he has arrived at the hospital, visiting hours are over, and he's stuck there until he can get a ride out. He encounters a teenage girl named Hannah (played by the appropriately named Mia Goth), who is the only patient under the age of 60.
Actually, Lockhart becomes the second when his leg breaks in a car wreck on the way to the hotel. He also discovers that the villagers nearby distrust the hospital for reasons other than old superstitions and legends. Also, the hospital's director, Volmer (Jason Isaacs), has a preoccupation with bloodlines and purity. Considering his cold, courtly manners and Teutonic name, it's easy to imagine things getting worse.
Having played bad guys in everything from The Patriot to the Harry Potter movies, it's no secret that Isaacs' latest role is full of sinister secrets.
It's obvious the healthiest option is to escape from the hospital (if that's possible) -- Verbinski and screenwriter Justin Haythe (who also teamed up on the ill-conceived adaptation of The Lone Ranger) set up a cornucopia of unsettling images and ghoulish treatments.
Most of the devices in the hospital look as if they were designed for the Inquisition instead of medicinal purposes. While the wealthy clientele might look at the medieval and Victorian machinery as cures that common folk can't afford, it takes no effort to assume they may only relieve patients of their income or sanity.
Cinematographer Bojan Bazelli (another Verbinski veteran) and production designer Eve Stewartv create an atmosphere that is picturesque and foreboding. DeHaan is a good choice for Lockhart because he gives off a sense that he isn't completely trustworthy. After a while, it's easy to wonder if he really is of sound mind and body or if he needs some of Volmer's unconventional therapy.
At two and a half hours, it's easy to wonder if we see more than enough of the curative and lethal qualities of the mountain water. Nonetheless, Verbinski and Bazelli once successfully adapted the Japanese horror film The Ring without losing any of the chills in translation. The director seems more at home making viewers squirm than in indulging in Johnny Depp's whimsy.
MovieStyle on 02/17/2017
Print Headline: A Cure for Wellness