Ruthless, ambitious and heartless, Dane DeHaan plays Lockhart, a corporate financier tasked with retrieving a rogue colleague who’s turned his back on the material world to instead seek…A Cure For Wellness.
The metaphors are a little heavy-handed in the opening act, as ambition, capitalism and greed are all suggested as diseases that afflict otherwise healthy and wealthy people. Combined with some surreal imagery it risks drawing laughter out of the audience instead of discomfort.
Gore Verbinski’s shots may not always catch the right tone, but it’s hard to argue with their beauty. He’s as brilliant a visual director as ever, using reflections to hint at DeHaan’s descent through the looking glass. He also captures the story’s visceral terror very well, creating some horribly uncomfortable moments of body horror, reminiscent of Lucile Hadžihalilovi?’s underseen Evolution.
The plot is easy to read, but still holds a few twists and jumps. The biggest problem is that Justin Haythe’s script drags on for far too long, offering a predictable plod towards its conclusion, instead of the uncontrollable rush of horror it needs.
Dane DeHaan has had a mixed career since breaking out in 2012’s Chronicle, but he is strong here as the stressed banker Lockhart. He delivers the selfishness and cruelty needed to establish the character, but manages to keep his portrayal human and relatable. Once things start to go wrong for Lockhart, DeHaan keeps you feeling sympathetic despite his initial callousness.
Jason Isaacs embraces the panto villain aspects of his character Dr. Volmer, Swiss accent and all. He finds that sweet spot between winking evil and being genuinely sinister and helps to elevate the often repetitive mystery elements of the plot. Mia Goth is also good as Hannah, the only other young person at the spa, who Lockhart bonds with in a sweet subplot.
There are a lot of conflicting tones in A Cure For Wellness, with sincere anti-corporate sentiments rubbing up against melodramatic horror and a sweet coming-of-age story. Verbinski proves gain how talented he is as a director, but the material isn’t quite strong enough to match him, with the lengthy script big on ideas but poor on execution.
Words by Tom Bond