A Cure for Wellness

Fear death by water, as Voldemort meets Freud in this submerged horror.

The real and the horribly real merge — or, rather, are submerged — in Gore Verbinski’s watery thriller, A Cure For Wellness. Every time the plot advances, it does so in baths, fountains, subterranean grottos, even a fishbowl. Dane DeHaan is Lockhart, an ambitious financial analyst who’s about to drown in all of this liquid symbolism. His firm sends him to a Swiss spa in order to retrieve a board member who has renounced his capitalist past. Unfortunately for Lockhart, the head doctor at this particular sanatorium is Jason Isaacs (previously seen onscreen as Harry Potter villain Lucius Malfoy). As Dr. Volmer — almost Voldemort — Isaacs is a menacing presence even when standing perfectly still. His impeccable posture coils up like a starving eel ready to strike — and there are eels everywhere in this posh place.

The director, however, is less interested in letting these heavy-handed Freudian references sink in than he is in spelling out exactly what they mean. When a teenage girl menstruates for the first time in a pristine pool, a frenzied mass of wobbly bodied eels suddenly appears to encircle her. They’re a sign of sexual predation to come. But the creepiness quickly evaporates when the filmmakers construct a silly, eely mythology inside of what looks to be Young Frankenstein’s abandoned laboratory. A Cure for Wellness is a sodden fairy tale, a version of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain without any magic.

A Cure for Wellness
Rated R. Opens Friday at the AMC Van Ness 14.

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