Cousin Franz: Gore Verbinski is exactly like Tim Burton: he too would benefit immensely from issuing Johnny Depp a restraining order. The proof is that when Verbinski is not turning Depp into an intoxicated pirate, or an aesthetically unpleasing chameleon, or an offensive Wampum-loving stereotype, he can be an able director of elegant, over-sized horror movies. Unfortunately, he’s gotten the chance to prove this only twice, with his 2002 remake of “The Ring” and – 14 years later – with “The Cure for Wellness.” Pity that “The Cure” sank at the box office before an unappreciative public, so expect Verbinski to direct Depp in “Rango 2: The Tried, The True and The Proven” sometime soon.
What’s refreshing about “The Cure for Wellness” is how this Gothic thriller is unaffiliated with any “cinematic universe,” how it comes with no Roman numerals after the title, how it is not inspired by any best-seller. Dane DeHaan plays Lockhart, a young company man from Manhattan who’s already on the way to becoming dead inside. Lockhart is sent by the will of Wall Street to collect a senior partner called Pembroke, who refuses to leave the Volmer Institute, (a sinister sanatorium in the Swiss Alps where he’s “taking the waters.”) Like Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener,” Pembroke would prefer not to return into the grinding grasp of capitalism, but it’s obvious to Lockhart that the old-fashioned health spa is just about as diseased as the modern world. This is one of those Luis Bunuel nightmare places where you can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave. Our hero’s attempt to escape ends up in a bone-breaking accident that makes him join the list of water-taking patients. Running the institute is Jason Isaacs (perfect as Dr. Volmer, the doctor who exudes reliability one moment and menace the next), and Mia Goth (as the innocent waif whom Lockhart must protect.) “A Cure for Wellness” may be one of the most daring Hollywood gambits in recent memory- even if it failed – and easily Verbinski’s best movie since “The Ring.”
Trent: So, Lockhart, because his emotions are locked away. Pembroke, because he broke his “pen” and turned his back on the business world. Volmer, because Voldemort was taken. And of course the chick who needs a suntan is called Mia Goth. Code decoded!
Tracey: I liked it a lot! there were some clunky plot contrivances, but the wealth of memorable imagery makes up for it all. We can benefit from more of these odd, original movies. If only it wasn’t as long as the average “Pirates of the Caribbean”! People have bladders, don’t filmmakers know this?
Granda Felicius: Original? Why, this stitched-up corpse is clearly just Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain” meets Martin Scorsese’s / Dennis Lehane’s “Shutter Island,” with a bathtub borrowed from Stephen King’s / Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” plus elements from every other creepy asylum chiller ever made. Not citing your sources isn’t the same as being “original,” it’s just “hoping no one notices what you’re ripping off.”.
Beatricia: Hold on, there’s an orderly here who’s always reading Mann’s “The Magic Mountain.” That’s a sort of admission. The movie is not trying to hide its many influences: it’s just that those influences rarely have this kind of budget. I for one was in suspense throughout, and entranced by the contrast between the nightmarish proceedings and the idyllic landscapes of Switzerland.
Grandpa Felicius: Switzerland my Aunt Astrid! I will eat my cocked sugarloaf if there was so much as a single Helvetian frame in the entire feature! That’s clearly Germany and it would take a blind moray eel not to recognize Hohenzollern Castle! More than once I walked through that very courtyard with Crown Prince Wilhelm discussing the minutiae of our ill-fated Operation Valkyrie.
Beatricia: Right right, and it was you who strangled Hitler with a shoelace.
Grandpa Felicius: Not Hitler! Himmler! Hitler died of heartbreak after his beloved German Shepherd bitch, Blondi, accidentally bit into a stray cyanide capsule. I would have expected more accuracy from you, Beatricia.
Beatricia: What did you think of the movie, Hanky?
Hank: The eels! The eels! They’re all about! Oh for Mercy’s sake, won’t anyone see them? Get them off me!! GET THEM OFF ME!!!
Blurbarella: “Odd, original movies– Won’t anyone see them?”
4 out of 6 Cherries