GORE Verbinski, director of the opening three salvos of the Pirates Of The Caribbean series, slinks into bonkers territory usually inhabited by Tim Burton and Wes Anderson in this unsettling and achingly stylish psychological thriller.
Set predominately in a spa located in the Swiss Alps, A Cure For Wellness casts an intoxicating spell with its deliberately off-kilter camerawork, hallucinogenic set pieces and discordant orchestral score.
It’s an impressive amalgamation of colour-bleached production design and slow-burning suspense reminiscent of the high-altitude madness of The Shining.
Alas, a sustained build-up of tension dissipates in a ludicrous final act that repeatedly chooses cheap, salacious shocks over plausibility.
An excessive, self-indulgent running time certainly doesn’t help the medicine go down and scriptwriter Justin Haythe, who recently worked with Verbinski on the ill-fated remake of The Lone Ranger, repeatedly falls back on horror movie cliches as punchlines to his artfully contrived weirdness.
Ambitious executive Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) gains rapid promotion when a colleague suffers a fatal heart attack. He is summoned to the boardroom on the 70th floor where senior staff reveal chief executive Roland Pembroke (Harry Groener) has disappeared to an Alpine spa at a crucial juncture in a business deal.
They need Lockhart to bring Pembroke back to New York to sign off a hugely profitable merger. As instructed, Lockhart travels by train to Switzerland and heads into the mountains by car.
Before Lockhart can return to company HQ, the high-flyer is involved in an accident and suffers a broken leg. He agrees to recuperate at the spa and sample the ‘uniquely rejuvenating properties’ of the aquifer in the catacombs.
Mingling with other clientele, Lockhart learns about the facility’s macabre past and he is inextricably drawn to a quixotic girl (Mia Goth).
A Cure For Wellness is a fantastical yarn that promises far more than it delivers. The film’s ambition and scope are admirable, but no picture, especially one this sprawling, can flourish principally on the heady fumes of directorial brio.