Review of A Cure for Wellness (2016)

Moving picture, 146 minutes

Seen in 2020.

A US finance CEO sends a letter from a Swiss sanatorium, in which he rejects the world of money-above-all as sick. The firm sends a younger man to retrieve the CEO, so they can make him the fall guy in a corrupt business deal. It turns out there are eels, but also not eels, but also eels.

An uninspired marriage of assorted Gothic horror tropes, more modern horror-movie tropes, The Magic Mountain (1924) and Sigmund Freud, shot in an uneasy hybrid of Argento and Cronenberg’s respective styles, in the spa setting of Youth (2015). In fact, Youth was shot at the Schatzalp hotel, a former sanatorium where Mann got part of his inspiration to write The Magic Mountain, a book briefly shown on screen in this largely unrelated film.

Everybody speaks English, except when the protagonist is not supposed to understand their German. The sound design is awful and the characters are all pretty stupid, despite being highly motivated, highly educated and wealthy enough for lots of people to come looking for them.

The satire of Wall Street is disappointingly peripheral. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter that Lockhart is a finance guy; he could have come from any business, for virtually any reason, and the film would have changed very little. He’s just the hero who solves the mystery, kills the baddie, burns the evil place down and makes off with the sexy virgin. Volmer’s scheme, to “filter” toxic magic water through people to make an elixir of life, killing in the process, is not a good metaphor for capitalism, and its Lovecraftian potential is wasted; The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927) tells a better story. There is room for lots of metaphors in the overextended runtime, but nothing materializes.

fiction moving picture