Gisell Says A CURE FOR WELLNESS Is A Full-Fledged Sensory Experience!

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FILM REVIEW: A CURE FOR WELLNESS

BY GISELL BUTLER

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A Cure for Wellness stirs up an epitome of lurid horror into a puzzling 146-minute journey of self-reflection that slides a microscope over the bitter sickness that resides inside of all of us. For a horror genre piece, this film contains some of the most gorgeously shot visuals that I’ve seen so far, this year. No stranger to having an eye for detail and a sense of style, Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean 1-3, Rango, The Lone Ranger), whom achieved visionary director repute for 2002’s The Ring, returns to his horror roots to give us something unlike anything we’ve seen from him before.

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This film may not be as graphic as other horror films but it does contain quite a few cringe-worthy shots that might not sit well with some audiences, with many of the scenes mirroring or symbolizing a deeper message behind its initial intent. The film is undeniably, a full-fledged sensory experience, from the dimly-lit echoed corridors of the misty sauna rooms to the deeper sense of foreboding that encircles you as you go deeper and deeper beneath the levels of this mysterious wellness center, which promises to cure any and all of their supposed ailments. The sense of anxiety that looms over this film is as powerful as Dane DeHaan’s eerie crutch-squeaking, which reverberates from room to room and the unsettling toilet-handle jangling, which further reminds us all to take care of our plumbing at home.

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A young and successful executive Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is sent to the Swiss Alps to locate a missing employee, Pembroke (Harry Groener) whom traveled to the wellness center yet never returned. The board members of Lockhart’s company are receiving threats from the SCC, and they are looking for a “fall guy” to take the blame. Lockhart then travels to the wellness center to collect Pembroke, but when a car accident leaves him injured, the center’s main Doctor, Heinrich Volmer (Jason Isaacs), whom runs the facility, suggests that Lockhart stay awhile and try their treatment methods to help heal quickly. Lockhart, who seems skeptical-yet also knows if he complies, might lead him to Pembroke faster- agrees, but he soon comes to realize his obvious misjudgment. A young girl named Hannah (Mia Goth), is also a patient at the facility, which is perplexing to Lockhart, since most of the clientele is older. As he begins to bond with her, he discovers that she might hold more answers to the secrecies that lurk beneath the spa.

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I’m going to forewarn you that this film is going to almost-certainly divide audiences. Just like The Neon Demon seemed to fare with critics, I imagine that this film will be traveling that same ‘split down the middle’ fate. Each person will find things to love and hate about this film, I just happened to find more that was enjoyable for me personally. The idea of modern society being sick is a highly-intelligible story concept to play around with and explore upon at length. This film may do the exploring with some interesting points of view and at times, unexpected angles, but it didn’t make me enjoy the story any less. Some people might complain that it’s all style and no substance, and I couldn’t disagree more. There is a level of credible substance, but, it just might not be everyone’s cup of tea, or should I say, water?

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The most breathtaking moments of the entire movie are those involving the vivid use of elements, colors, camera angles, and reflections. The significance of earth, air, fire, and water are powerfully sown into almost every single scene. Verbinski and cinematographer, Bojan Bazelli (The Ring, The Lone Ranger, Pete’s Dragon, Kalifornia) utilize them to their advantage to set up the meticulous shots of each scene through a strikingly-sharpened lens and dismal atmosphere. In one scene, there might be a clinical, sterile set filled with unsoiled colors, while in another there may be a sea-sick green stain to the entire frame, which occurs in a lower level wing. I tend to enjoy darker, more twisted stories, and this one is definitely one of them. The cast, story concept, cinematography, score, sound, and visual effects all fuse together to achieve a great overall look, along with a story with some allegory. Gore and Bojan have teamed up together in the past, and this partnership once again proves worthwhile in all its spine-chilling glory. Verbinski directed, wrote (along with screenplay by Justin Haythe) and produced this film, and as far as passion projects go, I have to give him props because I believe he did a phenomenal job. The on-location shots were filmed in various parts of Germany, along with the main backdrop of the film being Castle Hohenzollern, which is an exquisite Gothic castle that resides atop a hill that practically clings to the clouds above the lower towns of Hechingen and Bisingen.

As far as conversation-pieces, this film is also one of them, and leaving the theater, I did have some questions. Also, while the first and second acts are somewhat cryptic and puzzling, the third act ends in a fierce climax, giving audiences a blockbuster ending, which left my screening auditorium full of loud rounds of applause. As it reaches its closing, there is a rich, macabre feel that made me love it even more, and while at the beginning, the story convinces you of heading in one direction, the tale leaves behind a classic monster movie quality imbued with arcane themes, which resonates quite well with its narrative. If you’re thirsting for something different to see this weekend, I would recommend taking the cure, and fully immersing yourself in this movie.

 

FINAL WORD:  StarStarStarStarEmpty Star