Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Cure for Wellness (2017)

This is Gore Verbinski's new weird as fuck horror/thriller type movie about a crazy mental hospital and also eels. I went into this expecting something dark and creepy, and, uh, I got it.

There are SPOILERS ahead for the film. Be warned.

Director: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth

This thing starts off with Dane DeHaan playing Lockhart, an American businessman who does nothing but eat junk food, work 24/7 and be rude to people, like all Americans and all businessmen. His bosses catch him doing something wrong and are going to fire him if he doesn't go to this weird asylum hospital place in Europe and bring back this top official of theirs who seems to have lost his mind there.

"We are business people, and so we have no regard for human life or safety! We'll blackmail you forever!"

Naturally, the place is weird right off the bat, with nurses who look too long at you and speak solely in cryptically threatening messages for the movie's trailer. The head of the place is played by Jason Isaacs, who seems to have drunk heavily from the goblet of Evil Villain Movie Potion and comes out with creepy music following him, a sinister serpentine smile and everything he says comes off as threatening. Gee, I wonder if HE'S gonna be the bad guy?! I bet this guy even comes off as creepy to the employees at the bank or the grocery store.

“I'll check out now with this gallon of milk, these bananas and these eggs... mwa ha ha ha...” (evil music)

“Uh, sir, you're just at the grocery check out counter, calm down. Do you want your receipt or not?”

There's also the mysterious girl who Lockhart sees doing a balancing act on top of the castle – we learn later that this is Hannah, a girl who has lived there her whole life and who the director guy wants to keep safe. So I guess that's why he just lets her stand on thin ledges where she could easily fall to her death.

Then on the way back, the driver guy and Lockhart get into a horrible car crash when a deer runs onto the road and crashes into them, sending the car into a Nascar-style multiple flip into the woods that should have killed them both. But then Lockhart wakes up without a scratch on him anywhere except for one broken leg he is apparently well enough to start walking on crutches with immediately. I guess the crash just looked worse than it was...

No cars were harmed in the making of this movie. Probably.

Things just keep getting weirder and weirder as Lockhart begins to suspect there's something wrong – something he'll CONTINUE to suspect for the next hour and a half of the movie, yet stays there anyway just waiting for worse shit to happen. He finds some weird microbe thing in the water, continually sees odd visions and has characters just act plain strange and ominous – yet he remains DEDICATED to staying there until he can find Pembroke, the guy who his company sent him there to find. I guess it's a commentary on how much Americans are obsessed with work? Or maybe he is just a fucking moron.

Then he does talk to Pembroke, not very long into the film, even persuading him to come back home with him. But then the next day he's told Pembroke's “condition” has worsened, and so now he's not available anymore, and Lockhart is blamed for stressing him out! Lockhart, naturally, sees nothing too wrong with this, and just sticks around waiting for him to come back I guess. This would already be the point where I personally would just leave and tell my bosses things have gotten fucked up. But not for Lockhart – he just sticks around.

Then, the leader of the place tells Lockhart HE is sick and should stay around and receive the same treatment everyone else there has gotten. Bizarrely, with no real logic behind it, he agrees to this. In one bizarre sequence, he is submerged in a tank of water and told to remain there for 30 minutes to simulate birth – okay, well, whatever works for you, man. The guy watching him, however, is distracted when a nurse randomly enters the room and flashes him her boobs, and he just sits there and jacks off to that instead of paying attention.

Unfortunately, that is also precisely the time when the tank fills up with a bunch of eels that really freak Lockhart out. He nearly drowns and is saved by the two guards, which, I guess is good that they prioritize drowning over boobs. This is never mentioned again – you'd think an American businessman, as high strung as they are, would sue the fuck out of the place for this. But nope. Never mentioned again!

Instead it's just more of the movie's elongated storytelling – he never tries to leave or do anything but confront the leaders of this place, which is pointless, because they're the ones who have the power to lock him up and never tell him anything. Just go! Run! I don't get what the hell is so difficult about that. But he stays and just tries to keep discovering the weird shit there. He doesn't have enough evidence yet that this place is weird!

He goes underground and discovers a network full of famished-looking elderly people trapped in tanks full of science-y looking liquid... his course of action is to stay there and shout at the people running the place. Christ. I bet if he witnessed a murder, he would just stick around and try to reason with the murderer; figure out WHY he's doing the things he does. Just go!

"Woah, I better not actually take any drastic measures now that I found this. I'm sure just confronting the owners of the hospital angrily will be good enough! They probably have an explanation!"

He even has a chance to leave, as he and Hannah ride down to town to figure out what's going on. In a very bizarre scene, they stop at a bar and end up getting in a fight with a bunch of kids that look like a schizophrenic's interpretation of the 80s, all mohawks and black leather. Luckily, the hospital people show up and break up the fight, taking Hannah back with them. Lockhart, for some reason, goes too. We know there's a train in this area that could take him out of here - why the fuck he's still staying there is so utterly bizarre to me.

Then his tooth falls out and he's taken to this crazy dentist guy. Just a word of warning – if you go to a dentist and he has a giant jar full of human teeth on his desk, like the guy does in this movie, then leave that dentist and run far away. Lockhart, though, sticks around long enough for them to rip out one of his teeth for no other reason than punishment, and frankly I think he deserves it for being so dumb as to stick around this long.

What a good dentist he must be. Look at all those teeth!

In between all these scenes, there are more weird scenes with eels in them. Just eels. Lots and lots of eels. Why, I have no earthly clue. I think Hollywood just had a surplus of eels that weren't being used in any other movies, and Verbinski just went "I'll use all of them!"

This is the cover for the next issue of the niche fetish mag "Girls and Eels" coming out this month.

Eventually, he figures out that his leg isn't even really broken! You know, just an easy mistake to make. I assume this is to speed along the plot as we're already two hours in and we need him to run faster. He rips off his cast and then goes about finding out even more of this place's secrets – because the rest of the shit he's seen just hasn't really convinced him yet, I guess. He finds out that the guards take dead bodies into this cave area and feed them to a bunch of eels in the water. Because why not?

Then they manage to get him again and stick him in this full-body tank with only his head sticking out, where they put a tube in his mouth and then flush a bunch of water with eels into his body. Because, again, why not? If you can think of a weird thing to do, just do it! That's the motto of this place.

You'd think this – with Lockhart now being brainwashed and part of the place – would be the end. But nope! We have a bizarre final 20 minutes where it's revealed that all of this weird stuff has been going on to sustain the head doctor played by Isaacs, who is actually a 200 year old baron in disguise who wants to fuck Hannah, who is actually his daughter. I guess this makes as much sense as anything else, sure. Isaacs' real form looks like a Marvel Comics villain complete with scaly green skin and super strength. Sure! Why not!

So I guess Lockhart kills him and he and Hannah burn the hospital down and then escape. The end!

Honestly, I kind of enjoyed this whole thing. It's frustrating as hell the way Lockhart continually makes the worst choices just to elongate the movie and keep him in the hospital. And a lot of these plot twists have been done before. But the whole thing is just so brazenly crazy, not giving a fuck what anyone thinks of it, that it's almost impossible not to be entertained by it. It's a ridiculous film, totally ludicrous, but it takes itself just the right kind of seriously that it becomes a gloriously bizarre freak show ride of a movie.

In summary, I learned two things from this:

1. Americans work too hard and are stressed out, but that's still better than what goes on in weird healing therapy hospitals in the backwoods of Europe by far.

2. Eels are terrifying and should be feared in the way that evangelicals fear God.

I guess that's as good of a lesson as any. Review over.

Images copyright of their original owners, I own none of them.