Film Reviews

A Cure For Wellness: Abstraction From Reality

A critique of the capitalistic lifestyle and an all out riddle of a film, A Cure for Wellness is Gore Verbinki’s newest installment into the horror genre.

It is psychologically comparable to Shutter Island, but manages to have an originality to it that does not fail to thrill. While the horror-genre has historically been cut, time and time again, from Academy Award wins and nominations, this is one that should not be left unnoticed.

The opening act finds a man, shown to be working long hours in a sort of “employee of the month” type role within the Wall Street firm, who is inadvertently stricken with a life-taking heart attack. Verbinski therefore sets the mood for the film and builds the foundation for the underlying critiques towards capitalism of the modern world that the film is scattered with.

The protagonist of the film, Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), is soon ordered the following day by the firm to retrieve their disillusioned CEO from a “wellness centre” hidden away amidst the pristine Swiss Alps. At Lockhart’s arrival we find the Swiss resort-like sanitarium centre that claims it can provide you a cure for any ill disease you may have, be it your issues of greed workaholic obsessions.

“Verbinski talents lie in creating a type of horror that causes you squirm, turn away and question every moment and every scene.”

Dr. Volmer, played by Jason Isaacs, maintains a chilling sense of calm throughout, all while slowly unraveling an eerie persona. The viewer is set to question the methods of the facility, noticing how it lies focus upon an inanimate character, water, and the faculty’s persistence for all checked-in to profusely drink it.

Verbinski talents lie in creating a type of horror that causes you squirm, turn away and question every moment and every scene. The viewer is constantly on edge, feeling as though there is something greater to be revealed in the next few bewildering moments. However, the connection Verbinski wishes to develop between Lockhart and the audience has more to do with a sense of hopelessness rather than shock.

The emotional need to escape for resonates with audience members. Our empathy for Lockhart makes us want for him to be able to leave and not be another prisoner of this early 1900s-like, hydro-therapeutic rehabilitation centre.

The reasoning for this sort of layout can be compared to Gore Verbinkski’s first and only other horror film, The Ring, of 2002, the plot being if you watch a VHS tape you would soon die within seven days. If watched side-by-side one can see the similarities of Verbinki’s approach to the horror genre. The same empathy many felt for the main character in The Ring, many will also feel for Lockhart in A Cure for Wellness, whereby we do not need to know these characters, but merely gravitate towards their feelings of helplessness.

“Its camerawork allows the viewer permission to lean in closer.”

Aside from the creative imagery that causes so many to wince and turn away in certain sections of the film, A Cure for Wellness expresses and connects each scene with caution and a slight amount of abstractness. This seems to be one of the greatest attractions of the film as its camerawork allows the viewer permission to lean in closer.

In a New York Times interview with Verbinski himself he describes the scene where Lockhart first enters the steaming sanitarium, wishing to capture “a certain sickness…like a black spot on your X-Ray.” This scene is the one of the few notoriously abstract scenes in the film, but with it the audience can begin to understand the lingering sickness and chilling darkness that the sanitarium may actually be withholding.

Where this film slightly fails is its ending. After delivering a masterful tension-built storyline, there comes an ending that somewhat evaporates into nothingness. The final act was filled with a rather bizarre surprise of Dr. Volmer and then somewhat of an open interpretation of Lockhart’s own sanity and wellbeing. It left me yearning for more.

Of course, this is a horror film, and few films in the genre have a truly happy and satisfying ending, so to an extent this purposefully unsatisfying ending can be somewhat excused.


Overall this film attracts not only the classic horror audience being those seeking to feel any and all moments of terror, but also the psychological horror fandom, desiring to sink deeper into what these dark and trembling moments meant. A Cure for Wellness does not fail to leave a lingering positive impression after exiting the cinema and is most likely to be a film to watch over and over again.

Matthew Johnson

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