Plot: The head of a massive corporation has abandoned his post, checked into an unusual health clinic after he claimed the pursuit of financial success had given him an intense sickness. This happens just before a huge merger and with some accounting “inconsistencies,” the board is anxious for the leader to return and take the fall for the issues, so the merger can go on as planned. Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is selected to travel across the world to bring back Pembroke (Harry Groener), the elusive executive who left under strange circumstances. As it turns out, Pembroke is at a health clinic that takes special interest in burnt out executives, using a local water source to provide a unique blend of hydrotherapy techniques. The patients seem exceedingly happy and show no signs of wanting to leave, but Lockhart senses that perhaps not all is as it seems, so he wants to leave as soon as possible. But a reluctant staff and a horrific car accident delay his departure and with a broken leg, he finds himself a patient in the clinic, even if just for a short while. But he soon realizes his instincts seemed to have been correct, but what is the truth behind this unusual clinic?
Entertainment Value: This is a tense, stylish thriller that relies on visuals, atmosphere, and performances to drive the experience. The narrative is fine, but kind of falls apart toward the conclusion and despite the two and a half hour duration, never feels all that fleshed out. But I don’t think the thin plot lessens the experience, as A Cure for Wellness is more of a visual journey, in my opinion. The locations are stunning, very beautiful, but also dark and eerie, ideal to set the mood for you to question what could be going on in this isolated clinic. And mood is a big element in this one, as the movie keeps you on edge and unnerved, even confused at times, so we can relate to Lockhart and his sense of dread. The location is a character unto itself to be sure, without such a peculiar, off putting backdrop, the story would lose a lot of presence. The visuals extend beyond the locale however, giving us a dark, stylish design that ensures you remain hooked in, even during slower stretches. The pace is passable, but things do drag in a few instances and as I said, the material is not efficient with the narrative. Despite the slow stretches, the visuals carry the movie through, as does the cast. Dane DeHaan is fine in the lead, but the show is stolen by a charismatic Jason Isaacs and also Mia Goth, who turns in a haunting performance as Hannah. In the end, this one is best recommended for visuals and the atmosphere, as the story itself is rather lackluster. But the film’s strong points more than compensate for the weak narrative.
A lot of naked old people in this one, perhaps not the kind of nudity you’re after, but hey, naked wrinkles is still naked, right? Mia Goth reveals her perky breasts late in the film as well, under some, well…colorful circumstances. Some blood, but most is rather poor digital effects and of course, that doesn’t earn full points. But we do have some fun amateur dentistry and some wonderful scenes of elderly corpses devoured by eels, so there’s some fun stuff. The horror elements play out more in tense, psychological ways than jump scares or straight violence, so the lack of outlandish gore isn’t a problem in the least. The dialogue is pretentious and forgettable, save a few outbursts from Lockhart here and there. Jason Isaacs’ performance yields some over the top moments, especially in the finale, but only a few quotable lines pop up. The craziness isn’t high, but the movie does have an unsettling presence throughout, not to mention some stylish visuals that add ample creepiness. But the outrageous finale that spins the narrative into a over the top melodrama earns a couple points, as it is so ridiculous and spits in the face of the serious tone the film takes to that point. So it takes a while for the wheels to fall off, but when they do, its quite fun to watch.
Overall Insanity: 4/10