A Cure for Wellness

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If you've been at all interested in seeing this film and have taken a peek at reviews, this probably won't be the first time you've heard this, but A Cure For Wellness is batshit insane. This can be a good thing, depending on your tolerance for bizarre storylines, loose plot threads that never get sorted out, and nonsensical character motivations. It really does feel extraordinarily out of whack which makes for a highly entertaining time at the theater. With a 2.5 hour runtime, I was afraid that I would be bored, but that never happened because I was too busy asking "WTF?!!???" to get bored. This is a truly singular movie.

A young man named Lockhart (played by Dane DeHaan) is sent to the Swiss Alps to retrieve the CEO of the company he works for from a health spa.  Upon arrival, he slowly begins to discover that all is not well at the wellness center. As Lockhart's horrific experiences begin to pile up, the film dissolves into a taboo-filled almost-action (?) film featuring eels (lots and lots and LOTS of eels!), incest, musings on genetic purity, menstruation, and...did I mention eels? And while that all sounds dramatic enough, I'm not even talking about the film's final quarter, where it becomes something not quite incomprehensible, but definitely cracked. I've never seen anything like it.

A Cure For Wellness is drop dead gorgeous, and I'm a fan of cinematographer Bojan Bazelli's work in this film, just as I was in his other horror genre partnership with director Gore Verbinski - The Ring. And the two films actually have quite a lot in common - both are filmed in a chilly, almost clinical way, with a blue/green palette that references water's duality as both a giver and taker of life. It's beautiful to watch, and from the moment Lockhart is riding on the train up into the mountains, you feel as if you're immersed in some nightmarish, fucked up gothic fairy tale.

A Cure For Wellness isn't for everyone, to be sure. But I recommend seeing it, if only to have a visceral reaction to something that is truly strange and manages to escape the trappings of most major studio horror films.  There is nothing predictable or common about A Cure for Wellness, and at times you'll wonder how Verbinski gets away with this. It's completely demented and unwieldy, like watching a horrific plane crash over and over again. But, there's also something refreshing in seeing a studio give a director permission to break all the rules, and have them do just that. Amazing, actually. I don't think I'll forget this one anytime soon.

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