It’s not uncommon for a film to split audiences down the middle. Many films do. However it’s very rare that a film comes along that makes you want to like it, even when you believe its flaws outweigh its merits. This is the case for “A Cure For Wellness”, a horror thriller that tries really hard, maybe too hard, to be a modern classic. Despite falling short the film proves to be an entertaining, if not unsettling, modern horror gem, but it may fall short for fans outside of the genre.
“A Cure For Wellness” stars Dane DeHann (“Chronicle”, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”), as Lockhart, an executive at a financial firm who is blackmailed by members of the company’s board to retrieve the company’s CEO from a wellness center in the Swiss Alps to help cover up a few business deals in the process of a merger. Lockhart makes his way to the wellness center, meeting the center’s passive aggressive Director Dr. Heinreich Volmer, played by Jason Isaacs (the “Harry Potter” franchise, “The Patriot”) and a mysterious young “patient” at the wellness center named Hannah, played by Mia Goth (Nymphomaniac: Vol. II). As Lockhart tries to connect with his CEO and convince him to return home, an accident forces him to take up temporary residence at the center where he slowly delves into the mystery of what is really going on behind the scenes.
That sounds like a mouthful, and it kind of is, as is the entire movie really. At almost 2.75 hours long “A Cure For Wellness” is quite a lengthy experience, especially for a horror film, littered with exposition and drawn out moments of drama and story building that, while at times necessary, tend to take the viewer out of the mystery and fear the film portrays. Add to that wooden acting by almost everyone involved and “A Cure For Wellness” can be hard to get invested in. DeHaan, Isaacs, and Goth, who dominate the screen time, come off an uninterested many times throughout the film although as the story progresses we start to see them truly embrace their characters and live up to the story’s potential.
With that said it truly is the story that makes “A Cure For Wellness” worth the watch. Delightfully cringe worthy visuals, unapologetically graphic nudity, and a little bit of gore here and there make “A Cure For Wellness” a truly unsettling horror flick, but in all the best ways. Think “Hostel” meets “Shutter Island”. There’s plenty of mystery and suspense to keep the viewer thinking the entire movie and many moments where Lockhart is forced into physical torture that could make even the most experienced horror fan squirm a little. It all comes around to an equally disturbing revelation at the end of the film that, while a little anticlimactic and admittedly predictable, serves to bring everything full circle to a satisfying end.
While “A Cure For Wellness” is not a horror classic in the most extreme sense, it does well to take inspiration from the best in the genre that came before it and gives horror fans what they came to see, gruesome images, mystery, and suspense, and does so with minimal, if any, jump scares. It’s sure to find its place as a classic of some sort to those who respect these aspects of the genre, which are done to perfection, but in the end it’s hard to overlook the bland acting and strung out run time that make an otherwise intriguing movie merely an “okay” experience for average viewers who may not fully respect or embrace all the finer details built into the film.