There’s no denying Gore Verbinski’s “A Cure For Wellness” oozes forebodingly Gothic style. It starts conventionally enough, picking out the theme of the callous emptiness of the rat race and a mysterious Swiss ‘wellness’ clinic which offers respite and rejuvenation in its secretive mountain retreat.
When amoral and ambitious young executive Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is sent to the clinic to bring back the errant CEO of the financial services company he works for. Once there, though, he learns that Mr Pembroke does not want to leave. Thwarted at every turn by the enigmatic head of the institute, Dr Heinreich Volmer (Jason Isaacs), Lockhart finds that he too will struggle to leave the clinic, especially after receiving treatment for a broken leg. Intrigued by another patient, a young girl called Hannah (Mia Goth), Lockhart finds that the secret of the institute is far darker and deeper than anyone would believe.
For the most part, “A Cure For Wellness” delivers a fascinating mystery backed up by a fantastically unnerving atmosphere and a lavish visual aesthetic. While it retains its sense of inscrutability, it’s tremendously entertaining. Once it starts to reveal its ultimate secrets, though, it all gets a bit silly. DeHaan’s strong performance anchors the growing fear and paranoia as he is sucked further into Dr Volmer’s machinations and while everything is steeped in ambiguity, Isaacs is an effective foil. Unfortunately, Isaac’s character is both the chief architect and victim of the film’s descent into kitschy Hammer Horror melodrama meaning by the time it’s all pitchforks and shouting, the film’s potential and credibility have gone up in flames too.