Fox released a trailer for Gore Verbinski’s upcoming horror movie A Cure for Wellness today. As it happens, I’ve seen the first 30 or so minutes of the movie, which is where a lot of the first half of the trailer comes from. Both are full of everything creepy you can think of.
Here’s a description of the start of the movie.
At the start of the movie, there’s a man working away in his office, ignoring a letter that arrives with a wax seal. Instead, he drops dead. Meanwhile, a young executive played by Dane DeHaan works hard to seal some sort of deal, completely absorbed in his work and his nicotine gum. The kid seated across from him draws a devil in the fog on the window. The deal closes, apparently granting DeHaan’s character the dead man’s corner office.
He’s then summoned to a boardroom where he’s given a letter from Mr. Pembroke, who is really important to this generic company. The letter is the wax-sealed one the man who died received, and it’s this voiceover you hear at the start of the trailer: “There is a sickness inside of us, rising like that bile that leaves that bitter taste at the back of our throats.” Pembroke left for a spa in Switzerland and is refusing to return.
Apparently, DeHaan did something illegal—just something, go with it—to close that big deal and the board is prepared to throw him to the wolves for it. Or he can got to Switzerland and get Pembroke back so he can sign off on a deal for the company. (The man who died was apparently the person closest to Pembroke, so there’s no one better to send.) Pembroke’s either the founder or from the family that owns the most stock—something where he can’t just be removed for going crazy and sending a manifesto about disease to his former colleagues, I guess.
Before he leaves, DeHaan’s character visits his mother in a nursing home where all she does is paint small ballerina figurines. He says that his new promotion will let him send her somewhere nicer and he’ll take care of it as soon as he gets back and sees her again. She ominously says he won’t.
DeHaan takes a train to the town where the spa is located and gets in a car driven by a very talkative driver. The driver tells DeHaan, and the audience, that the spa is in a castle above the town, and that the castle and the town don’t like each other at all. When DeHaan asks why, he’s literally told it’s an interesting story. A long time ago, the old lord of the castle was obsessed with purity of blood, so he decided the only person pure enough to marry was his sister. No one agreed with that, but he did it anyway and then the village stormed the castle, killed the sister and her unborn child, and burned the castle down.
When they arrive at the castle—where everyone is dressed like a nurse or doctor from the ‘40s—DeHaan is told visiting hours are over and he can’t see Pembroke. He bullies his way to a man in charge who says he can come back later and see Pembroke. He does this while very, very weirdly turning a handle on a slightly leaking faucet. The facility’s treatments are all based on the water from the land. DeHaan swears he’ll be leaving with Pembroke that night, but he’s going to go to a hotel first.
Except he’s not. As he leaves, DeHaan spots a girl in a white dress standing on the wall of the castle. He stares at her just as the car slams into a deer, flips over, and knocks him unconscious.
I think—but I’m having trouble remembering exactly where in the movie this was—that this is when we see DeHaan putting a coffin into a crematorium. I guess his mother died? When this happened, if it’s just a hallucination or a nightmare, I don’t know.
He wakes up in a room in the spa in cast. He’s told by the man who runs the spa, played by Jason Isaacs, that his office said he could stay to recover because his health is so important—which seems suspicious and not at all in keeping with how the board was presented when we saw them blackmailing him. DeHaan is also told to drink the water that’s there. He walks to the window where he sees that a grate to the lower levels is being bricked up. Also—as in the trailer—there’s something alive and moving in the water he’s drinking.
DeHaan decides to rest less and keep searching for Pembroke. He finds out that Pembroke is getting a steam bath and heads down there, on crutches, to look for him. In the process, he ends up alone in a maze of steamy rooms. In one, for a few frantic seconds, he loses the door—everywhere he turns is a wall covered by yellowed tile and not a single opening. Eventually, he finds an old man who is, apparently, the much-sought-after Pembroke.
After seeing all of this set up, I did really want to know what the hell was going on in that castle. It’s an interesting mystery and it’s clearly meant to be a slow-burn kind of creepy movie, ramping up to all the running and teeth-losing in the trailer. And you can’t go wrong with Jason Isaacs being the head creeper in charge.
That said, it also feels like a vague bunch of creepy images all thrown at the screen at once. Small moving things in the water. People in white vintage hospital outfits wandering around. Being told you won’t leave or come back. The creepy girl in white on the wall. The incest and fire backstory for the location. Being trapped in a foggy room. It’s a lot of weird for one movie.
I’m intrigued but also kind of worried the mystery won’t be worth it. I’ll find out when the movie comes out February 17, 2017.