A cure for wellness

DFree / Shutterstock, Inc.
DFree / Shutterstock, Inc.

Director Gore Verbinski is not one who seems to like to be pigeon-holed into one genre. Best known for winning an Oscar for the animated film ‘Rango,’ Verbinski also directed the first 3 installments of Disney’s ‘Pirates of the Carribean’ franchise, as well as the comedy film ‘Mousehunt’ with Nathan Lane and the Johnny Depp vehicle ‘The Lone Ranger.’ But it was his film ‘The Ring’ that had him earn his spot into the horror genre and this weekend, the director returns with ‘A Cure for Wellness.’

The film follows Lockhart, an ambitious young executive played by Dane Dehaan, who is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps. He soon suspects that the spa’s miraculous treatments are not what they seem. When he begins to unravel its terrifying secrets, his sanity is tested as he finds himself diagnosed with the same curious illness that keeps all the guests here longing for the cure.

So after 15 years, what enticed Verbinski to return to horror?  It all had to do with timing. When Verbinski was working on the script with Justin Haythe, they centered on one specific theme:

“Why are these people vulnerable to the diagnosis? If you want to dive deeper into that, why are we vulnerable to the pharmaceutical industry, or to the seaweed wrap, or the kale smoothie, or whatever it is? If I run down a list of questions—”Do your feet hurt? Do you get stomachaches? Are you sleeping well?”—there’s going to be some point where you’re going to go, “Yeah, I have that.” It’s like we’re almost happy when it’s like, ‘That’s my problem.'”

Verbinski taps into that vulnerability where it has somewhat become the norm for people to be a reverse hypochondriac in that with all the drug and homeopathic remedies out there, people have somehow convinced themselves by looking at the remedy, they have the symptoms of that health problem instead of the other way around.

 “I always appreciate when a story can tap into a modern zeitgeist or a contemporary fear, but as a society, there is something that makes us vulnerable to these things—whether it’s a pharmaceutical company, kale diets, or whatever—and I think that fear comes from us knowing that deep down, something is not right.”

What was real? What was a dream? The boundaries blur and begin to make you question the spa and what Lockhart is going through. ‘A Cure for Wellness’ has an H.P. Lovecraft quality that nags you as you leave the theater and the analogy seems to please the director:

“I love H.P. Lovecraft for that very same reason, where you can’t possibly begin to understand the unknown without losing your mind at the same time. And the closer Lockhart gets to the truth here, the more his sanity is in jeopardy.”

Unlike most horror films, ‘A Cure for Wellness’ is more psychological and makes you think twice about what you just experienced so if you are looking for something a little different this weekend, this film may be the one for you.

Janice Kay is the Senior Editor for ScienceFiction.com. When not working, you can most likely find her drinking copious amount of mochas while in front of a TV binge watching on sci-fi shows. You can follow her on Twitter.