Warning: spoiler alert! Also, if you’re highly disturbed by incest and rape, don’t watch this movie.
Source: 20th Century Fox
I’ve got to admit, I only watched A Cure for Wellness (ACFW) for Dane DeHaan, who plays the main protagonist, Lockhart. After I fell in love with him in Kill Your Darlings, I hoped that DeHaan would finally be given a role that showcased his acting chops. Sadly, and unsurprisingly, ACFW severely disappointed me in this regard.
The first 15 minutes of the show was reminiscent of scenes from Mr Robot because of the composition of each shot, the metaphors used to describe the ‘superiority’ of the upper echelons of society, and the lessons highlighting the evils of capitalism. After that, all magic is lost.
Not only do we soon realise that this beautifully set up premise is completely superfluous to the entire movie, the failure to follow through with its potentially poignant criticism of the potential evils of criticism makes the second half of the movie rather confusing; why even create a subplot about how ambition corrupts if you aren’t going to address it anyway?
The thematic use of water and eels are used frequently to stir suspense (“It’s in the water, there’s something in the water!”), but ACFW fails to make good on its thrills and chills. Inevitably, the water-eel saga was a red herring to the true reveal. It reminded me of a cheap knock-off of Shutter Island in this regard. Even the scene where viewers are supposed to question Lockhart’s sanity falls flat – we already know that everyone else is in on the conspiracy to protect the castle by this point, making the scene once again, redundant.
Speaking of unnecessity, despite recognising that ACFW is of the Gothic Horror genre, I found myself questioning if there was really a need to include that much nudity in addition to an incest-rape scene. Crimson Peak handles these issues much better in contrast by interweaving nudity and incest more tightly into the storyline and thus, making it relatively acceptable. ACFW unfortunately fails to do this; it would have sufficed to suggest that one character was about to get raped by a family member. Personally, the movie crossed the line when it graphically depicted how it (almost) happened.
Perhaps I’m being too critical of the script-writing – after all, director Gore Verbinski is known for bringing the theatrical and the ‘delightfully bonkers’ to the screen. However, two plot holes at the beginning of the film immediately prevented me from being fully diving (ha ha) into his creation:
Getting a recognised mentally unsound man to sign a merger would not be legally effective, so why try busting him out of the sanatorium anyway?
Who signs things in a foreign language without reading it, especially if your character is meant to be a shrewd businessman?
Having seen the concept art for the BioShock movie he was meant to direct, Verbinski’s capability in combining horror and aesthetics is unfettered. Yet, this movie makes me wonder if it was indeed a better eventuality that BioShock failed to be produced.
If you’re still planning to watch this movie, don’t bother trying making any sense of it. Despite my criticisms, it was entertaining enough as a nightmarish ride. Instead, focus on enjoying the beautiful sets and its excessive peculiarities. I’m sure you’d appreciate it much better that way.
Rating: 2.5/5 (the 0.5 for the effort of making such an aesthetically pleasing mess)