A Cure For Wellness ***1/2

by D.R. Huffman

"A Cure for Wellness" succeeds as a refreshingly different take on big-studio horror.

Is it worth $10? Yes

“A Cure for Wellness” stars Dane DeHaan as Lockhart, a young, ambitious executive for an investment firm. When the CEO of the corporation fails to return from a Swiss "wellness spa,” Lockhart is sent to bring him back. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Lockhart himself is involuntarily checked into the spa, where he begins to undergo “treatment.” It isn't long before he realizes all is not right, and he begins his own investigation into the spa’s past and what exactly this mystery “cure” is.

DeHaan has finally found another vehicle to show off his superb acting talents. His Lockhart is essentially a yuppie type, similar to that of Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho” (2000), minus the mental illness. He starts out as an unlikable guy who is ruthless, unfeeling, and motivated only by upward mobility. What he experiences throughout the film slowly softens him up a bit. DeHaan sells his role as an unconventional and almost ineffectual hero just about perfectly. This is easily the best role he has played to date (Yes, even better than his character in “Chronicle” [2012]).

Mia Goth is eerily beautiful as Hanna, a young patient whom Lockhart befriends and who may hold the key to everything. She appears sporadically until her role is beefed up near the end. DeHaan and Goth play off of each other well, and they share a nice chemistry. Jason Isaacs is unsettling and creepy as all get-out as the head of the spa, Dr. Volmer. His wellness center seems to be focused on using water as a way to help cure what ails people. His intentions are always shady, and he possesses a sharp, sinister edge.

The first act attacks the screen with what amounts to a decoy tirade against capitalism, and then it slowly morphs into something else completely. It becomes fun to follow Lockhart as he attempts to solve the mysteries that lie at the core of the wellness spa. (In this respect, the film feels similar to “Shutter Island” [2010]).  “A Cure for Wellness” could be classified as part noir, part thriller, and part horror (verging on art house horror, in other words). A lot of disturbing things do go down, and the violence does get brutal at times, as Lockhart is put through the wringer in increasingly nasty ways.

Directed by Gore Verbinski and shot by Bojan Bazelli (both of whom brought us “The Ring” [2002]), it should come as no surprise that “A Cure for Wellness” feels like “The Ring” in many different ways. It’s thoroughly eerie, with rich atmosphere and thick tension. Consistently haunting and gorgeous, the cinematography renders virtually every frame a work of art. The story and the twisting path on which it takes us satisfies as well.

“A Cure for Wellness” is a different kind of horror film, drenched in atmosphere, brimming with tension, and sometimes surprising in its brutal and disturbing turns. Verbinski’s latest is sure to haunt your thoughts long after you exit the movie house.

D.R. Huffman covers new fare with an emphasis on horror and thrillers for Punch Drunk Movies.