Movie: A Cure for Wellness
My Rating: 4 stars
I love a good, creepy movie. If you make it a sinister, insane asylum movie, all the better. I suppose this movie isn’t exactly set in an “insane” asylum. Technically, it’s a wellness sanitarium—somewhere for wealthy patrons to go and “take the waters.” But, since this is a horror film, almost everyone at this institution seems pretty insane—guests and staff alike. There’s nothing creepier to me than an evil doctor (unless it’s a haunted doll). But, when people go to doctors, they are really putting themselves in a very vulnerable position. So, for a doctor to be willfully exploiting that trust to do creepy experiments on their patients, it’s prototypical horror.
Our protagonist, Lockhart, is sent to a health spa in Switzerland to retrieve the corporate board member who has been hiding out there for a number of years. But somehow, since this is a horror film, Lockhart winds up getting committed to the asylum himself. Everything seems wrong. The patients are too cheerful—too happy to stay for years or never leave at all. The diagnoses that the doctors are handing out seem a little too conveniently dire. The treatments are absolute quackery (lots of cleansing toxins out of the system). And, it’s almost impossible to find a way out of the place. There’s a lot of, “You’re free to leave any time. Just fill out these seventeen forms and present four forms of picture identification. Of, you don’t carry Swiss money? That’s a shame because the taxi companies only take up-front cash payments.” So it adds a layer of bureaucratic nightmare to the dreadfulness.
This movie really does have something special. We’ve seen this kind of story before—an arrogant protagonist getting humbled by whatever devil happens to be haunting the story. In this case, the demon is a doctor who insists that everyone he comes across is deeply unwell. This physician then prescribes all kinds of crazy, terrifying treatments—most of them looking like advanced interrogation techniques. But, this movie adds some absolutely gorgeous aesthetics. The story is set in a Swiss castle, and the scenery is breathtaking. There are gorgeous panoramas with mountains and valleys, and quaint villages. Contrast that with the stark, clinical, horror that is the asylum, with its endless corridors of white tile, cruel, antique-looking medical implements, and perfect nurses who look dead behind the eyes. It really makes an impression. So even though the underlying story may be exploring a well-worn form, and maybe doesn’t make all that much sense, it’s worth seeing anyway.
See this movie if you like horror films. Like I said, the story is a bit problematic. It’s well-worn territory, and unravels a bit at the end. But this is an absolutely beautiful film to watch, and creates a very terrifying mood. I enjoyed every bit of it. That being said, the movie is pretty gross—lots of body horror, and some pretty grisly mood-setting pieces. But, you wouldn’t be renting this movie if you weren’t ok with a little bit of that.