A Cure For Wellness- A Gothic Spectacular

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Visionary director, Gore Verbinski is back with his first horror film since The Ring. 2017’s A Cure for Wellness blends Verbinski’s meticulous attention to detail with elements from gothic and weird fiction. The resulting film contains a few flaws, but overall is a beautiful and unique cinematic experience.

A Cure for Wellness follows ruthless young businessman, Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), on his mission to Switzerland to convince his company’s head to return to his life in New York. Lockhart is the kind of guy who will do anything to achieve a goal, and he isn’t afraid to push people around in order to get what he wants. His arrogance leads him to believe that retrieving his boss will be a simple task, but he quickly discovers the sanitarium is hiding secrets in every corner, most of them related to the water.

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From a technical perspective, A Cure For Wellness is a feast for the eyes. Verbinski’s clear understanding of visual storytelling, creates a tense atmosphere of foreboding that is present in every scene. Whether the camera is following the dizzying movements of a group of white robed dancers, or showing a static image reflected in the eye of an animal bust, there is a grandness created within the frame. His indulgent style is an excellent fit with the dramatic storyline.

As for the story itself, there’s a bit of everything for all types horror fans. Fans of gothic horror will be attracted to the old buildings, incestuous relationships, and the forbidden romance. Those more drawn to Lovecraftian themes will enjoy the slimy creatures, the body horror, and the overall sense of individual oppression by the seemingly larger than life institution.

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The mystery behind the water in A Cure For Wellness is compelling, but a bit predictable. Chances are, most viewers will figure out what’s going on, pretty fast. That doesn’t make the film less enjoyable, just don’t expect to be shocked. It’s also a little on the long side, but because Lockhart is learning more and more with each scene, it doesn’t seem slow or boring. However, it might upon repeat viewings.

The film is at its very best when it relies on the creepiness of the characters and the cult-like mindset of the institution. The weird water based treatments, the polite but stiff staff, and the zombified patients in white are what makes the movie so spine chilling.

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The film is at its worst when ventures beyond the atmospheric and the psychological. The climax boils down to a physical fistfight between Lockhart and a character that basically transforms into Skeletor (No spoilers, here.). For a film that spent two hours being so thought provoking, it seems jarring and out of place for a high action scene to occur. For some this borderline comedic resolution may ruin the film. For others it’ll just seem like a sizeable bump in the road.

A Cure For Wellness is likely to be on many top 10 lists for 2017. Even though, it contains some significant blemishes, it still possesses many brilliant qualities. Like Crimson Peak, its gothic aesthetic and precise performances more than make up for its basic storyline. Verbinski may not have created a genre masterpiece, but A Cure For Wellness still way exceeds most studio horror productions.

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Rings- Too Little, Too Late

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Rings, the third film in the American Ring franchise comes more than a decade after The Ring 2. Like the first two films, Rings focuses on a cursed video tape, and the mythology surrounding it. Since it’s 2016, one might expect Rings to focus on social media, and the way a video can go “viral”. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Instead, the movie delves deeper into the history of the tape, creating a boring, disjointed narrative.

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Rings follows two college aged students (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz and Alex Roe) that become involved with the tape and the mystery of Samara. When Holt (Roe) begins attending college, he is convinced to watch the tape by his professor, Gabriel (Johnny Galecki). Gabriel believes the tape provides absolute proof of life after death, and he has created a club dedicated to watching and spreading it. While the tape is a sure death sentence, that death can be avoided if you have someone else watch it. Julia (Lutz) watches the tape to save Holt. After that she begins experiencing visions of Samara, the legendary girl from the tape. These visions, accompanied by clues from the tape lead Holt and Julia to the small town where Samara was born. The couple struggle to put the pieces together, before it’s too late.

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Rings has some intriguing stuff in it. The idea of a club being built around the tape is a good one. The film also shows the innovative ways the tape can be viewed and shared. However, these aspects of the movie are minor and are never given enough time to fully develop. Instead, all of the emphasis is put on Samara and her history. The 2002 Gore Verbinski film did an excellent job of detailing Samara’s story, Rings only adds details that are both unnecessary and confusing. In the final act, Rings attempts to redeem itself by adding a plot twist involving Vincent D’Onofrio. Unfortunately, it falls flat.

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In addition to the details of the story, the film suffers from a distinct lack of worthy characters. Julia and Holt lack personality. Their love story feels hollow. There’s just nothing there to make the viewer feel attached to them. The film would be much better, if it followed Gabriel the professor, and his obsession with the tape.

Finally, there’s Samara herself. She’s a creepy character by nature. However, Rings attempts to make her more menacing by adding excessive makeup and CGI. She’s reduced to a silly parody of the Samara/Sadako fans have come to know and love.

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Rings isn’t a terrible film, it’s just boring. The plot is too tedious. On the surface it seems like the story makes sense, but it can be picked apart with ease. It does nothing to enhance or further the franchise. Rings played it too safe. Director, F. Javier Gutierrez attempted to copy the format of the Verbinksi film, but had little success. The end result is another sloppy, paint by numbers horror film.