Director Gore Verbinski may be best known for helping Disney turn one of its most popular rides into a blockbuster film series, which — for better or for worse — encouraged Johnny Depp to start choosing roles based on how much eyeliner they required. But before he captained three Pirates Of The Caribbean movies, Verbinski provided the vision for the American remake of The Ring, a moody and hair-raising supernatural horror flick. The director is back in that genre for A Cure For Wellness, coming to theaters Feb. 17. The movie is set in a Swiss wellness retreat that has more on the agenda than rest and relaxation. But just how scary is A Cure For Wellness?
I've seen the movie and can confirm that A Cure For Wellness tries to pack in almost every type of scare. (Some spoilers ahead.) The setting is simultaneously majestic and creepy. It's glaringly obvious from the moment that finance firm employee Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) arrives at the spa to fetch a vacationing partner who never came home that there's something very wrong happening there. Hallways stretch as far as the eye can see; disturbingly serene attendants seem to look right through him; the director Dr. Heinreich Volmer (Jason Isaacs) won't let him see the person he came to visit; and even the cricket being played by the elderly patients has a menacing quality. Lockhart is told over and over that no one ever leaves this place. The patients he meets maintain that they're not "well" enough to go, though they seem perfectly fine.
Have you ever seen photos of old-school spa equipment? Just looking at some of those obsolete techniques in action gives me goosebumps, because they often involve restraint or isolation. As Lockhart goes deeper and deeper into the bowels of the castle, he finds staff and patients engaging in some "relaxation" methods that look more like torture. And, as I'm sure you've guessed, he's subjected to some of them himself.
A Cure For Wellness is light on the jump scares, but heavy-ish on the gore. I had to cover my eyes a few times, once during a medieval dental work scene that's put me off candy for good and again during an unexpected incident with a cow. The gross-out factor gets higher as the movie goes on, and you and Lockhart learn what's going into (and coming out) of the various bodies inhabiting the place. (Also: eels. Lots and lots of eels. Afraid of eels? You may want to skip this one.)
A Cure For Wellness is a rambling thrill ride that has about as many endings as the last Lord Of The Rings movie. Its silliness pretty much guarantees that you won't be taking anything with you when you leave. There are psychological horror movies that have haunted me for weeks after I left the theater. Post-A Cure For Wellness, I just kept thinking about what a great midnight movie this will make someday. It's that camp.
On the serious note, A Cure For Wellness does feature a fairly graphic sexual assault sequence. It may be a trigger for some viewers, so proceed with caution.
A Cure For Wellness is a grab-bag of genre tricks, so I can say with confidence that almost everyone will find something that in this movie that taps into their fears.