okay, so first of all, right off the bat. let’s get this out of the way: “a cure for wellness” did not make the cut for the zine. this is for two reasons which are somehow not at polar opposite ends of the movie review spectrum: it’s very beautiful and compositionally competent. the costuming walks that thin line in capturing a sense of both mundanity and unease in all the bleached white uniforms and scrubs without giving in too much to one or the other. these locations they’ve scouted give a sense of isolation and insolation, with the tight hallways and symmetrical architecture. all this in effect creates a very claustrophobic feeling movie, which i feel is very appropriate for a movie which revolves around, and hardly leaves, a single creepy location. no one is slacking in their performances (some are working harder than others and dane dehaan zero charisma in this role but its fine).
its also insanely boring, insipid as shit and the plot is fucking stupid. i’m actually not sure what the hell happened with this movie. it’s an anomaly to me. everyone who worked on it appears to be totally average movie makers who tried to box above their weight class in a major way. this movie was trying to Be something. in that way it is kind of interesting, but it is absolutely NOT entertaining enough to recommend to people in good faith. it is cursed with an absurd run-time only get funny once or twice before barreling full steam ahead in the last 30 minutes.
the person presumably responsible for what it looks like, cinematographer bojan bazelli, has worked on nothing i’ve seen except for “boxing helena” (1993) (which i hated), hairspray (2007) (absolutely unremarkable filmmaking, maybe even leaning toward bad), and “the ring” (2002) (probably his best effort but its just like. okay). the writer has no notable credits and gore verbinski has graced us with a lifetime of terrible movies (starting with the 1997 “mouse hunt”) before winning an oscar for “rango” because there wasn’t a disney or pixar movie that year. these guys all got together and decided “what if we made an artsy psychological horror film?” and…to their credit…they got halfway there. they thought they could bamboozle me just by shoving film through my eyes for nearly 3 hours until i was overloaded with information. but im too powerful for them and saw through their ruse because i’m insane.
[begrudgingly] that’s pretty cool gore
the writing in this movie is outstandingly terrible. like we’ll hit all the individual components here because this movie is like a pale, ethereal, slippery soup made up of many stupid ingredients but let’s start with the shit they hit you with right off the bat. justin haythe writes his evil corporate glenngary glen ross wannabes with the grace and authenticity of a literal child. i’ve seen episodes of “riverdale” with more convincing suits. our main character is a boiler-plate business asshole whose introduction to the audience is literally shuffling numbers around in excel for evil reasons. it’s so fucking lucky for haythe that we get the fuck out of this setting immediately because any more time spent here might have. actually you know what i was going to say it would have ruined the movie but who cares and how could it have..
it’s a completely functional story, which is usually a major hurdle a psychological horror movie has to cross, so at least i can give it that. is it good? uh. no. its not bad either, it just is. our protagonist is a business guy (dane dehaan) who did business crime so his business bosses threaten to give him up to the business police unless he retrieves a business guy from a decidedly non-business sanitarium overseas. unfortunately, he gets owned big time by a deer while cruising in the swiss alps and flies through his windshield into a big ol’ clumsy leg cast at the super special clinic he was looking for. enter the mysterious doctor volmer (jason isaacs, who is really playing this role lol. he’s having fun being a naughty little mysterious man…hee hee! hoo hoo!). he encourages him to drink plenty of……water….hehehe…[exits enticingly]
isaacs is great in his role but for whatever reason the entire cast was directed to speak like they were in a public library. you really gotta lean in to hear anyone in this damn movie. there’s not really any jump scares so at least they’re not cheap enough to hit you with that, but then it begs the question as to why? you have to struggle to hear the persistent squeak of our protagonist’s crutches over the soundtrack CONSTANTLY going full ear-drum popping dolby BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR that overtakes the soundtrack every 15 minutes.
our business boy finds his business man (harry groener) who refuses to come home in order to cure his non-specific illness he’s determined himself to have. that’s the psychological part of the horror you see. the water from the wells and springs at the sanitarium is believed to have very, very vague healing powers that the many elderly patients are gaga for. he also meets a very mysterious and wispy girl named hannah (mia goth, who i feel a little bad for her since she keeps getting stuck with these “creepy girl” roles because she has pale eyebrows) who is clearly under socialized from having lived in the sanitarium her whole life waiting for her dad to come back from getting cigarettes or whatever.
our business lad, lockhart, is dumped into an enormous tub of water after he hallucinates and passes out in a very public way that was a little too close to my real life for MY comfort. the water vat is a treatment for what ails him; like sensory deprivation except there’s a huge window letting in a bunch of light on the side of the tank and he has to be submerged under the water with a snorkle, so nothing like it at all actually. this is where shit gets hysterical. please prepare your body, mind and soul for the next sentence which will reveal to you the unspeakable horror which awaits you in “a cure for wellness”.
our hero is menaced by a hundred eels (who just kind of gently swim around him while he screams and flails) while the guy who is supposed to be watching him is literally masturbating to a nurse who just decided today was more of a tits out kinda day.
just like grab them and tie them in a knot dude.
his stupid flailing pulls his snorkel out and he almost drowns. like at no point were the eels a danger to him in this instance. he almost killed himself because he saw creatures he wasn’t expecting. frankly. i wouldn’t do that. i would simply enjoy the creatures.
lockhart survives and reconnects with hannah, who is the only person not allowed to splash in the waters due to “her condition”, which is just Victorian Wasting Waif Disease at first glance. they sneak away on her bike into town which is FORBIDDEN and stop in the least friendly bar i’ve seen in a motion picture that isn’t a biker or trucker bar. the whole time we’re here, the soundtrack is blaring german (?) post-punk over the jukebox and it looks like a place where you go to be crucified by the local extremely niche pagan cult specific to the town.
wow big crowd tonight
look, they make plot progress here but all of it is so minimal and so uninteresting. it’s shockingly banal and cliché; lockhart runs into a kid drawing a ~scary picture~ and talks to the town vet (~who is covered in blood~) about his suspicions that the sanitarium might not be on the up and up! turns out the place used to be owned by a baron obsessed with creating a pure bloodline and his sister-wife, who was infertile. they both came here seeking a cure for her “condition”. meanwhile, hannah (who he left in the bar) flirts with womanhood by applying someone else’s lipstick that she found in a public restroom?! GIRL THAT’S YUCKY DISGUSTING
the vet cuts open a dead cow in front of lockhart and a bunch of eels fall out. ahhh heed this warning that this might happen to you!! after witnessing this frankly insanely fucked up scene that would have me questioning whether or not satan is real, lockhart runs back to the bar to… call his workplace so he can ask them if his business partner here at the sanitarium had any pre-existing health conditions. now, here’s a thing about employers: there’s this little thing called the ADA that makes it so they specifically can’t ask you about that. so why would they know that. im not trying to be smarter than the movie here but it’s a weird detail when it ends up honestly not mattering. this would have been a great scene for the cutting room floor in this THREE HOUR MOVIE.
lockhart freaks out at hannah over the Mystery of the Sanitarium instead of telling his employer to send a fucking car and a plane and the fbi and the guys that dealt with waco. instead he makes the wis 20 move of starting a bar fight in a leg cast.
i’m starting to think this guy is fucking stupid.
oh shit! the saca tripas! used to gut sheep and other warm blooded animals!!!
the MYSTERIOUS DOCTOR VOLMER pops in just in time to save them and bring them back to the sanitarium. lockhart should have maybe refused to leave. that’s what i would have done. but maybe i am not psychologically horrified enough yet. the eels didn’t do it for me. you know what is giving me the fucking willies are these scenes between the spooky doctor volmer and hannah, who is pining for her missing father. the unpleasantly horny doctor volmer makes a few REALLY bad moves on this explicitly underage girl while i check how much runtime i have left.
our protagonist starts to investigate the bowels of the sanitarium, where the movie honest to god does the room rattling BRRRRRRRRRRRR to reveal a woman in a laundry room witting a stick. two seconds later we see two nurses punch an old man in the head to no fanfare. the movie is starting to go off the rails a little but it’s not enough to make the movie worth it yet. we will be stuck in this speed for another 40 minutes. it’s a little better, but not quite where i need it to be.
he meets one of his allies in the sanitarium, an older woman who earlier enticed him with a crossword puzzle comprised of plot points, who gives him a little history lesson while lying on a slab like a corpse. legends say that the baroness was once infertile…but cured…through strange and mysterious means! means that apparently involved a fuck ton of dead peasants. once the remaining villagers found the bodies, they burned down the manor and killed the baroness. just to add insult to injury, they cut out the baronesses’ fetus and chucked it in a well where it apparently thrived long enough to be rescued. haha well baby
speaking of drowning in a well lockhart finds a horrible room full of naked old people soup.
ding-dongs unconfirmed but theres boobs
he spies his old pal pembroke the business man but that bitch just floats in the soup. he can’t be helped. business boy hustles back to the main hallway filling his pants with terror induced shit where he is intercepted by……THE EVIL DOCTOR VOLMER!!! YAY!!! the incomparable doctor volmer takes this time to show off his cartoonishly malevolent dentistry skills by just drilling straight through his tooth after strapping him down into what can only be described a dental bdsm device. oopsie!! tee hee!!
lmfao come on
there’s a wholly useless scene where lockhart tries to go to the cops that progresses nothing and adds no emotional depth to the film. this is truly the most useless scene in the film. if its supposed to underline the helplessness of our protagonist, i’m not sure it helps or hinders. our idiot protagonist had access to a phone and used it to ask his boss about his coworker’s dietary needs. i dont really need to be shown why the cops are useless. there’s already a good reason why our protagonist can’t be saved from the sanitarium: he’s fucking dumb.
it does have a hysterical moment where they bring pembroke into the room to prove he’s alive, implying that they brought him with them somehow knowing they’d need him. he was in the soup like thirty minutes ago so he probably had to dry up too.
we have forty minutes left and here the movie starts to offer us pockets of hope: our protagonist starts to hallucinate. you might be thinking “well, that could be spooky” but what if told you were treated to the delightful sight of watching a man in a leg cast rip a toilet full of eels out of the floor. the handle had the audacity to jiggle ominously at the camera. an eel peeks its head out of the bowl. it’s an all-timer honestly but it’s also only like a minute long. in no way enough to justify a three hour movie.
lockhart succumbs to life in the sanitarium. he goes in the soup but does NOT get his dick out. he’s wearing VERY conservative swim trunks like a bitch. in a moment of dawning realization, he finally tears off his cast to reveal his leg was fine the whole time (something i feel like would have been obvious much earlier??).
thirty-five minutes left. the movie is now going to go full speed. hannah puts on the lipstick to symbolize her womanhood while lockhart discovers that the sanitarium is feeding the eels mummified corpses. get this: gore verbinski is about to blow your stupid mind with these sick editing tricks. you see, while lockhart witnesses the bloody feeding frenzy of the terrifying…eels, hannah gets her first period in a pool she walks into for some reason and starts bleeding like someone turned on a tap. i get its supposed to be a visual spooky aesthetic choice but…c’maaaaan. anyway the eels are like “yum yum blood” and swoop in. like literally i think they’re trying to swoop into her pussy based on her defensive maneuvers.
you need medical attention
let’s check in with our hero. oh he’s fighting off a henchman but don’t worry, he won. the eels meanwhile have abandoned the quest for pussy and instead are just circling her ominously. been there! hannah, wet and bloody, runs in and ruins a fancy banquet that the TWISTED DOCTOR VOLMER is holding for his patients! lockhart also wants to ruin the banquet and makes an impassioned plea: the doctor is keeping you sick! the water makes you dehydrated until you’re mummified! you’re dying and you don’t even know!!! literally everyone gets up and beats the shit out of him. BRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.
it’s plot resolution time. i’m going to try to explain this but if it doesn’t make sense it’s not my fault, im just the reporter. we are given an explanation for the spooky occurrences: the water at the sanitarium is very toxic to humans…unless it can be filtered through them (process unknown). im not sure how something can be extremely toxic but also can be filtered through them over a period of time. many things are unclear. the result is a little bit of juice that gives you a freakishly long life. the mischievious doctor volmer then floods our protagonist’s mouth with eels. as you do.
now for a creepy wedding ceremony between the fifty year old doctor and the almost certainly not legal girl. i dont know what age you got your period at but for me it wasn’t even remotely close to eighteen.
if you showed this to someone they would think it was a real movie
the honeymoon begins instantly. and his super-hot come on is to gesture at the bed he’s dragged her to and say “this is where you started”.
that’s right. the fucked up and jokerfied doctor volmer is hannah’s FATHER!!!!!! oh, great. and he’s tying her down and talking about how he used to do this with his sister. i fucking hate germans, man. anyway whattttt the lascivious doctor volmer is the baron and hannah is the fetus that was chucked in the well and they’ve been living for a long time using the people eel juice??? oh no her boobs are out.
lockhart figures this all out when he finds a photo with a lot of important exposition hidden in it. he has like a jimmy neutron brain blast and saves us the trouble of going through this again.
with fifteen minutes left in the movie, the depraved doctor volmer tears his fucking face off revealing a bunch of green goosebumps goo underneath. i dunno! i laughed, i didn’t know what the fuck what happening. now this movie decided to get good all of the sudden? why now? why now after 2 hours and 35 minutes!! and then lockhart lights him on fucking fire!! it’s great! but not for long.
verbinski insults me and his audience by cutting between the incomprehensible doctor volmer flailing frantically due to his fire problem and the wedding guests dancing in the ballroom. we get it; there’s one thing happening, but at the same time a bad thing is happening that is visually similar to that first thing. i get it gore!! you need a second hook!
oops, we didn’t count on the undefeatable doctor volmer actually being a terminator. the fire did nothing except light everything on fire. now you have two problems. actually three, because the entire sanitarium is in flames and not just this sex room. hannah solves one problem when she hits her dad-husband with a shovel and the unfuckable doctor volmer dies an ironic death at the hands of his precious eels and daughter-wife.
hannah and lockhart escape! they are fleeing! our heroes have taken hannah’s bicycle and are riding it to freedom-
you thought this movie was ending for the 20th time but you’re wrong. the people in the car are his bosses from new york (??) and they get out and yell at him while he’s bleeding in the street. we finally get our scene where lockhart tells his bosses that he’s “feeling much better” (get it? eh? eh?) and then he skids away on his little bike. i’m not sure how his teeth come back but they’re here for this final shot where he grins into the night. how did the teeth come back.
this is a movie of contrasts. it’s so fucking long and asks so much of the audience. it is too boring to recommend to people, too competently made to be sold to people solely on the basis of it being a bad movie (if this movie had a worse budget it would have been a whole different experience lol), and while there are some genuinely “what the fuck” great belly laugh moments in it, they are too few and far in between.
i spent 6 hours of my life on this movie watching it twice. imagine how i feel.