Gore Verbinski’s psychological horror chiller A Cure for Wellness is so gorgeous to look at, and so effective at layering diaphanous tones of queasiness and anxiety, that you sometimes forget to think about what you’re watching, which, in this case, is a good thing. Dane DeHaan plays Lockhart, a young corporate go-getter who’s dispatched to track down his company’s missing-in-action CEO. The guy appears to have flipped his wig while taking the waters at a wellness spa in the Swiss Alps. Our hero is greeted there by the purring, eminently reasonable Dr. Volmer (Jason Isaacs, delightful in his slitheriness)–though not before he breaks his leg in a tragic “accident.”
Being stranded at a spa shouldn’t be such a bad thing, but Lockhart begins to notice that some of his fellow wellness seekers seem spookily vacant. Also, they’re kind of old–except for a mysterious, lonely girl, Hannah, who drifts about the grounds like a zonked-out wraith. (The actor who plays her, Mia Goth, is wide-eyed and virtually translucent. She looks like a cross between Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall.)
The spa mystery involves dental X-rays, predatory Anguilliformes and restorative vitamin drops, and much of it is genuinely creepy. That’s largely thanks to the work of cinematographer Bojan Bazelli, who balances health-restoring sunlight colors with velvety green-gray dungeon hues of dread. Maybe even more surprisingly, about 70% of the crazily imaginative plot hangs together. But the other 30%, sloppily thought out and superfluous, drags the movie down. Certain story elements, like one involving giant, liquid-filled vitrines, exist only because of how cool they look. Verbinski–whose very name makes him sound like a guy given to using too many words–just doesn’t know when to stop. Sometimes, less is so much more.
This appears in the February 27, 2017 issue of TIME.
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