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A Cure for Wellness

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A Cure for Wellness is a 2016 psychological horror film directed by Gore Verbinski and written by Justin Haythe, based on a story co-written by Haythe and Verbinski, who were both inspired by Thomas Mann's 1924 novel The Magic Mountain

The film was released on February 17, 2017 in the United States by 20th Century Fox.

Plot

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

An executive at a financial services firm in New York City, named Lockhart, is sent by the board of directors to retrieve CEO Roland Pembroke, who had abruptly decided to stay at a "wellness center" in the Swiss Alps. At the spa, Lockhart is met with resistance by the staff and Dr. Heinreich Volmer in attempting to speak with Pembroke.

Lockhart leaves, but is involved in a car accident and awakens at the center supposedly three days later with his leg in a plaster cast. In spite of the horrendous accident, both he and the driver suffer only minor injuries. Lockhart meets a mysterious young girl named Hannah who, among others, doses herself with a mysterious fluid from small, cobalt-colored bottles. Patient Victoria Watkins and residents of the nearby town regale a fascinated Lockhart with the history of the spa. It was built on the ruins of a castle owned 200 years ago by a baron, who desired an heir of pure blood and married his sister. Learning she was infertile, he performed hellish experiments on the peasants to find a cure. He succeeded, but after finding the carelessly buried bodies of his victims, the peasants stormed the castle and set it on fire. They captured the baron's pregnant sister and the baby was cut from her womb before she was burned. The baby was thrown into the local aquifer, but somehow survived.

Lockhart attempts to escape the center but finds no one is allowed to leave. After gifting Hannah a ballerina figurine, Lockhart bikes into town with her help, leaving her in a bar and seeking out a translator for Pembroke's German medical dossier. He learns that the people of the spa suffer from dehydration despite the water they imbibe from the aquifer. Hannah, kept at the spa her entire life, explores the bar and attracts the locals’ attention. Lockhart returns and gets into a fight with a man who was dancing with Hannah. He is rescued by Dr. Volmer, by whom the locals are curiously cowed. Lockhart discovers the transfusion wing of the spa is a front for macabre medical experiments, and that the water from the local aquifer possesses unique properties – toxic to humans, but with life-restoring properties for the eels living in the water. The baron had devised a process to filter the water through the bodies of humans and distill it into a life-giving essence; Volmer uses the patients as filters for this process.

This "cure" is ingested by Hannah, Volmer, and his staff to gain vastly lengthened lifespans. Lockhart realizes that his leg is not broken and he is being kept prisoner. Volmer subjects Lockhart to nightmarish treatments, warping his mind until he believes he is insane. Hannah perceives this change and gives Lockhart back the ballerina figurine, breaking him out of his delirium. Hannah has her first menstruation, and Volmer marries her. During the reception, he leads her to a secret room in the ruins of the castle and begins to sexually assault her. Lockhart confronts Volmer and realizes Volmer is the baron and Hannah is his daughter, the baby who was thrown into the well; both have been aging very slowly due to the "cure".

In the ensuing fight, Volmer's face is revealed to be a mask hiding his hideous burns. Lockhart sets Volmer and the castle on fire, but is overpowered by Volmer. Hannah saves Lockhart by killing her father, who falls into the aquifer and is eaten by the eels. Lockhart and Hannah escape on her bicycle as fire engulfs the center, and crash into a car carrying Lockhart's employers, having come to retrieve him and Pembroke. Lockhart tells his employers that Pembroke died, and is ordered into the car. Unable to abandon Hannah, he rides away with her, smiling as they finally escape the asylum.

All spoilers have been stated and have ended here.

Cast

  • Dane DeHaan as Lockhart
  • Jason Isaacs as Dr. Heinreich Volmer/Baron von Reichmerl
  • Mia Goth as Hannah von Reichmerl
  • Harry Groener as Roland Pembroke
  • Celia Imrie as Victoria Watkins
  • Adrian Schiller as Deputy Director
  • Ivo Nandi as Enrico
  • Ashok Mandanna as Ron Nair
  • Tomas Norström as Frank Hill
  • Godehard Giese as Prim Technician
  • Magnus Krepper as Pieter The Vet
  • Michael Mendl as the Barkeeper

Production

The screenplay for the film was written by Justin Haythe, and based on a story conceived by Haythe and Verbinski, who were both inspired by the 1924 Thomas Mann novel The Magic Mountain. The central plot of Mann's novel also involves a sanitarium in the Swiss Alps. Beelitz-Heilstätten served as a primary filming location. The film's leads, Dane DeHaan and Mia Goth, were announced in April 2015, Jason Isaacs was added to the cast that June.

Principal photography for the film began on June 22, 2015 and took place mainly at Babelsberg Studio (co-producer) in Potsdam, Germany. Another great part of the film was shot at former royal Hohenzollern Castle, in the German municipality of Bisingen. The castle was closed to the public for filming from July 13 to July 24, 2015. Aside from Hohenzollern, parts of the film were also shot in Saxony-Anhalt and Zella-Mehlis, Germany. An abandoned hospital in Beelitz-Heilstätten, Germany, served as a location for many of the hospital interiors. The film received funds of €8.1 million, from the German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), as well as €500,000 from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg. Benjamin Wallfisch composed the score for the film, with music conductor Gavin Greenaway and performed by Chamber Orchestra of London in Abbey Road Studio.

The water tank scenes took two weeks to film. DeHaan and the director communicated through an intercom, and DeHaan wore a buoyancy and body-positioning waist harness connected with wires and an oxygen tank. The directors used a rubber drill in the scene where Dr. Brennan, the facility's dentist, drills through Mr. Lockhart's healthy tooth without anesthesia. According to DeHaan, he was genuinely nervous and his reaction was used in the filming. Verbinski stated that the scene had compositing, and DeHaan stated there was no outright CGI. DeHaan filmed the scene while wearing a dental gag and strapped to the chair.

In the car crash scene, DeHaan was placed into a harness inside a device described by Bryan Alexander of USA Today as being similar to a rotisserie before being tossed around. DeHaan stated that he experienced his sole filming injury there, in which his arm was dislocated from and then relocated into the socket in its shoulder. The German actors used in the scene in which Lockhart is assaulted by elderly people had no prior experience in film acting. Alexander wrote that this scene "wasn't as torturous as it appears."

Soundtrack

A Cure for Wellness
Benjamin Wallfisch
Released February 17, 2017
Length 50:00
Label Milan Records
Produced by Benjamin Wallfisch
Gore Verbinski
The film was scored by Benjamin Wallfisch and recorded at Abbey Roads Studios in London. It was released by Milan Records on February 17, 2017. The soundtrack album consists of the film's score plus a stripped-down version of a Ramones song "I Wanna be Sedated" which is performed by Mirel Wagner.

Track list

  1. "Hannah and Volmer"
  2. "Nobody Ever Leaves"
  3. "Bicycle"
  4. "The Rite"
  5. "Feuerwalzer"
  6. "Magnificent, Isn't It"
  7. "Actually I'm Feeling Much Better"
  8. "Clearly He's Lost His Mind"
  9. "Our Thoughts Exactly"
  10. "Volmer Institut"
  11. "Terrible Darkness"
  12. "Lipstick"
  13. "Waiting"
  14. "Zutritt Verboten"
  15. "There's Nothing Wrong With You People"
  16. "Lockhart's Letter"
  17. "Volmer's Lab"
  18. "I Wanna Be Sedated" performed by Mirel Wagner

Release

The film premiered at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas on December 10, 2016, as part of the Butt-Numb-A-Thon Film Festival. It received a theatrical release in the United States on February 17, 2017, by 20th Century Fox, after initially being slated for a September 23, 2016 release date.

In the United States, 20th Century Fox premiered a 40-second exclusive commercial during the 51st Super Bowl on February 5, 2017, which resembled a medication advertisement. An article in Vulture reviewed the television commercial, which noted: "This spot that aired during the Super Bowl tonight may have tricked you into thinking you were just watching a regular commercial for some terrible new medication, probably not approved by the FDA. But it turned out you were watching a trailer for a new supernatural horror film."

Two days before the film's U.S. premiere, The New York Times reported that 20th Century Fox had created a group of fake news sites as part of a viral marketing campaign for the film. The film trailer also gained media attention for showing a scene where Mia Goth was in a bathtub full of eels.

Box office

The film has grossed $8.1 million in the United States and Canada and $18.4 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $26.5 million, against a budget of $40 million

In the United States and Canada, the film was initially projected to gross $6–8 million from about 2,700 theaters in its opening weekend. However, after making just $300,000 from Thursday night previews and $1.5 million on its first day, weekend projections were lowered to $4 million. It ended up debuting to $4.2 million, finishing 10th at the box office.

In its third week of release the film was pulled from 97.8% of theaters (2,704 to 88) and grossed just $31,347, marking the second largest third-week theater drop in history (just ahead of the 2,659 theater decrease set by Live by Night two months prior).

Reception

A Cure for Wellness received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for its visuals, cinematography, performances and ambition, but criticism for its length, plot and structure. Critics have noted the film's Lovecraftian elements. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 42% based on 202 reviews, with an average rating of 5.32/10. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 47 out of 100, based on 40 critics. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.

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