Review: A Cure for Wellness

Score: C

Director: Gore Verbinski

Cast: Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth, Harry Groener

Running Time: 146 Minutes

Rated: R


Movies are like reputations: they can take a long time to build up goodwill, but just a few seconds to undo it all. That's what happens to A Cure for Wellness, which overstays its welcome and moves from "fun creepy" to truly disturbing. It basically ruins an otherwise enjoyable haunted hospital movie.

But let's back up. Dane DeHaan plays Lockhart, an account rep at a faceless corporation on the fast track to become the youngest executive at the obviously evil financial firm. One of the board members has holed up at a health spa in Europe, the only correspondence a hand-written letter that informs the company he no longer wants any part of their shady business.

Lockhart is tasked with bringing back the rogue exec, in order to make him a sacrificial lamb for the federal investigators sniffing at their door. It should require only a day's work, but as one of the best lines of 2016 reminds us, "Would that it were so simple." On the ride back to his hotel, Lockhart is involved in an intense car accident that leaves him with a broken leg and trapped inside the hospital.

And so the real mystery begins: Why is he suddenly forbidden from seeing his old colleague? Why are there so many off-limits areas? Why does "no one ever leave," as a younger patient (Mia Goth) ominously tells him?

Trying to discover the secrets in the walls of the retreat is a big part of the fun, and Verbinski is a strong visual storyteller, making corridors seem to go on forever and lingering on shots of body parts in jars. He also likes to toy with the audience: In one scene, disturbing sounds coming from one room turn out to be industrial-strength washing machines.

For two hours, this is a silly but enjoyable little thriller. It's like Shutter Island without the tragic backstory. It even ends on an appropriately eerie note. But then there's still another half-hour, which actualizes some creepiness that was only hinted at, turning the movie into something truly stomach-churning for no purpose whatsoever.

That's a shame because it sours an otherwise solidly crafted B-movie. This could have been Gore Verbinski's low-budget comeback, just like the one his contemporary M. Night Shyamalan has been enjoying. But because he couldn't leave well enough alone, he's shot himself in the foot once again. Right now, it seems like there's no cure for his indulgence.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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