A Cure for Wellness :: So Insanely Bad It’s Very, Very Nearly Good…

Review contains spoilers. I only put spoilers in films that are really bad. This film is insanely bad. Also: eels. 

A Cure for Wellness has an awesome opening which left me thinking that I was in for a treat. The opening features a natural death that is incredibly well realised and it hints that the film might be about to deliver a coruscating attack on capitalism. Over the next two-and-a-half hours though, the film goes so far downhill as to end up actually floundering in the very underbowels of hell.

So it starts out reasonably enough when a young, repugnant financier named Lockhart is sent to a Swiss hospital in the Alps to bring back his company's CEO, who will then take the fall for some nefarious activity that this slippery little wretch has been caught perpetrating. The CEO is deemed to be mad because he sent a letter to members of the board telling them essentially that capitalism is bad for a person's health. (This whole stitch-up-the-mad-colleague storyline was immediately reminiscent of Collateral Beauty, which is the very definition of not a good sign.)

Then, from the moment Lockhart arrives at the wellness centre in the Alps, the film identifies itself as a modern version of any number of Hammer horror classics from the early 70s. It has a great many classic Hammer tropes:

* a creepy setting dominated by an ancient castle-cum-mental hospital with gates and spires and forbidden rooms.

* a backstory featuring a mysterious couple who were killed by local people centuries ago.

* a deep sense of mistrust between ordinary working class people and "the people of the hill".

* a young girl who doesn't really know what's going on but one thing that's clear is that at some point she's definitely going to be involved in an unpleasant sex scene in which her dress is gratuitously torn open and her breasts are revealed.

* a creepy groundskeeper and a community of Stepford wife types, one of whom will occasionally hint at the terrible dark truth.

* a dark figure running the whole show who will almost certainly have some link back to the dark figure in the original story a couple of centuries ago.

* a lead actor who looks terribly out of place.

* inevitable conflagration.

Cineville - A Cure for Wellness

A Cure for Wellness
has all of these things. When I realised it was basically a Hammer horror film, I also imagined that it was going to be a comedy, because it would have to be, right? You can't make a film from the 1970s nearly 50 years later and not do so without a sense of humour.

Au contraire.

Actually, I don't know. I still can't figure out whether the director Gore Verbinski really knew how ridiculous his film was, or whether he thinks it's a serious film. Unfortunately, if it is supposed to be funny, it isn't funny enough. And if it's supposed to be entirely serious, it is literally one of the worst films ever made.

One more thing it's worth mentioning is that the plot makes absolutely no sense. It has something to do with immortality being distilled from old people via eels. Yes, eels. Finding an entrance where they can... Boring through your mind, through your tummy, through your anus, eels... This Mighty Boosh song makes more sense than A Cure for Wellness... 

The reason I've given the film two whole stars is because it is at times breathtakingly beautiful to look at — it has great locations and splendid cinematography — and because I can't deny being entertained. It actually stands alone in recent memory as a film that was still making me laugh out loud as I cycled home in the rain. It just felt like I was laughing for all the wrong reasons.

A Cure for Wellness then, is an insanely bad film, but yes, it's so insanely bad that it's very very nearly worth watching. But not quite.



The Viewing

I am here in the cinema with ten minutes to spare. I've been working all day and I know of no better way of relaxing than smoking a pipe, cycling ten minutes to my nearest cinema and watching a film I know next to nothing about. I did see a trailer a while ago for this and I remember thinking it was either going to be a thing of absurd genius or just overblown codswallop. I deliberately haven't investigated any further as, if I can, I do like to be surprised by a film.

I do love the ease with which I can see a film at the cinema these days though. Twenty minutes ago, I was in my pants.

Now look at me.

I'm at the cinema.

About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you’ll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven’t already.

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