There’s a very particular type of person who will be willing to sit through let alone relish Gore Verbinski’s two-and-a-half hour ode to gothic fiction’s greatest hits.
Let’s see if that’s you:
- You saw the original The Phantom of the Opera and/or read the book and immediately concluded that they were way better than the musical;
- The words ‘Heathcliff on the moors’ or Daphne du Maurier sends shivers down your spine; and
- You saw Crimson Peak and weren’t really sure why there weren’t more people in the cinema.
If at least two of these three criteria apply to you, you’re probably going to get something out of A Cure for Wellness. If not, stay clear.
In short, aspiring corporate hack Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) travels to an isolated retreat in Switzerland at the urging of his company’s Board to retrieve their CEO who seems pretty content with whatever treatment he is getting. Circumstances, and some none-too-helpful staff, force him to remain a little longer than anticipated as his own sanity soon comes into question.
Those who have seen the eerily oblique trailers and are hoping for a fright-fest will be disappointed; The Ring director’s latest will never scare you so much as unfurl an exhibition of gothic fiction’s quintessential shockers from decades, and centuries past. There’s wrought-iron gates, an old castle where unspeakable things happened, surrounding villagers who aren’t too chatty, a creepy gardener who silently greets you on the way in, even creepier patients floating about the courtyard, steampunk trappings, dental equipment that shouldn’t exist in the 21st century and, most pointedly, things in jars that really don’t belong in jars.
When the visual of a young girl appears in a nice dress staring out from the ramparts at passers-by, it’s really not that much of a surprise, nor is it when the final act goes full gothic in a turn of events that will either delight or completely alienate prospective audiences depending on their favour for Shelley-style fiction and whether or not they care what Mr Rochester was hiding in the attic.
Slightly overstaying its welcome and requiring a few dramatic leaps of logic, one of A Cure for Wellness’ inevitable twists, adeptly-foreshadowed throughout, is suitably creepy and will produce a chilled shudder in any viewer once its full implications become clear. If at times a derivative jumble from the likes of Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island and Gaston Leroux, if you are as enamoured with the traditions of the more unsettling works of Robert Louise Stevenson and Oscar Wilde as this author, unpacking the dimensions of this may just make you want to revisit all those dark old paperbacks from which the cast and crew clearly drew a lot more than inspiration.
A Cure for Wellness is in cinemas on March 16