I'm glad I watched A Cure for Wellness at home, broken up over three nights. It's a slow movie. Almost a languorous movie. Poe's great horror short stories often had this same feeling, a slowness, a creeping that was at odds with their brevity. There were whole worlds there being revealed in a slow pan.
Dane DeHaan plays a young American stockbroker sent by his firm to retrieve a colleague from a mysterious wellness clinic located in the Swiss Alps. Needless to say, nothing goes as planned.
Instead, a parade of horrors results, counterpointed by a critique of capitalism and its modern discontents. There's a mysterious young woman played by the aptly named Mia Goth (seriously, is that her real name?). And there's the soothing, reasonable, yet menacing head of the clinic as played by Jason Isaacs in a mode of subtle dread.
Production design makes the clinic foreboding from the beginning, but also realistically dated in its colour schemes and appearance -- it looks like a hospital from the 1940's. Below the ground, it looks like a hospital from the 1540's. Or a castle's dungeons.
Terrible things await Dehaan and Ms. Goth. There are subtle moments and gross-out moments and a repeated use of the reliably nightmarish 'My teeth are falling out!' trope. DeHaan, who looks oddly wormy at the best of times, is perfectly cast as the protagonist. He looks like a Poe protagonist. How odd that this perfect casting should come in the same year as his most perfect miscasting as the jaunty hero of Valerian.
Verbinski is relatively fearless when it comes to those moments when the horror stops creeping and starts leaping. It's fascinating to see a director best known for bringing adaptations of modern Japanese horror to North America and for that Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy plumb the depths of good old Gothic body horror, incest horror, and monstrous secrets from the cloachal depths. I'd love to see him tackle a Poe anthology next. Highly recommended.