The Dallas Movie Screening Group

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Cure for Wellness

A Cure for Wellness, from Gore Verbinski (The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean), is a very stylish, beautifully presented film full of great attention to detail and oozing with atmosphere. It rolls out creepily and broodingly over the course of 2 1/2 hours and begins to lose the tightly wound psychological tension about halfway through, then ending with a bit of a splat. Screenwriter Jason Haythe (Revolutionary Road) screen wrote a Gothic knock-off that keeps plenty of secrets as the plot eerily unfolds. The mystery/thriller begins in the big city of New York, in corporate America, the real horror show, where overworked employees drop dead of heart attacks and the CEO has jumped ship for a mental and health break, during a tumultuous time for his company, and disappeared to the very expensive, exclusive, European Volmer Institute, a health spa/hotel/resort ( itself it's own character) with a sordid history, high up in the Alps of Switzerland, declaring "no contact" and "no plans" to return. The institute is supposedly built on a spring possessing healing powers ( think Hot Springs Ark spa vibe). Lockhart (Dane DeHann- Chronicle), appearing too young to be a serious financial exec, such an important corporate position, is sent to retrieve the boss and bring him back to the impending crisis.

The audience slowly is introduced to some of the more interesting residents, who each provide small pieces to the puzzle. There are many secrets to be uncovered involving the residents, their health, the cures and the main Doctor Heinrich Volmer (Jason Issacs- better known as Lucius Malfoy of Harry Potter fame). An ethereal young girl Hannah (Mia Goth- or Mrs. Shia LeBouf in real life) hangs around the grounds in some rather odd locations and Lockhart gets to know her better. She is the only young patients and is a full time resident because she is "a special case". Her performance is by far the most intriguing. She figures in prominently at the end. A Crossword puzzle enthusiast patient ( Celia Imrie) informs the young Lockhart of the creepy history of the property and it's former residents. He makes several attempts to locate the boss, Pembroke, but he is elusive in his schedule, from steamy saunas to eerie spa rooms to mad scientist lab treatment rooms.

When finally found, he refuses to leave. Lockhart is injured leaving the facility and finds himself a patient in a room on the grounds. He witnesses creepy things at night, and is possibly being tricked by his senses. The rest of the film is basically him ratting out all the dirty little secrets within the various nooks and crannies, twists and turns of the facility rooms, halls and walls. The place is antiseptic and pristine, the nurses are icily perfect, but rarely helpful, and Lockhart begins to partake of the "treatments". Two thirds of the way through it just gets more and more confusing and the climax just kind of leaves one with a bad taste and a slimy sensation. Kind of like a declarative Trump press conference with Ivanka standing a bit too close to daddy. Visually, Cinematographer Bohan Bazelli shots are of the stuff of great, sweeping travel shows. It seems there is a hint of Scope green and antiseptic yellow hues to transport us into the scene. There are shades of Shutter Island, Altered States, Grand Budapest Hotel, Crimson Peak and Rear Window. Hints of Nazi Germany, human experimentation and supremacy/purity ideas are inter woven. The pacing is off, there are some plot holes, and some down time where one is left just wondering what the heck is going on, Trigger warnings for eels, near drownings, coming of age ( Carrie) and evil dentist scenes ( a la Little Shop of Horrors). And don't forget. Don't drink the spa water.
(Review by Cheryl Wurtz)

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