Movies like “A Cure for Wellness,” original stories with midlevel budgets that aim to attract an ever-dwindling share of a mass audience eager to leave the home and discover something new, aren’t supposed to be possible in Hollywood these days.
But here we are, with a 145-minute horror-thriller set in a Swiss sanitarium opening Friday that trades in rich atmospherics and psychological terror.
So, how did “A Cure for Wellness” happen?
It helps to have a director like Gore Verbinski, a dependable crafter of mainstream entertainment with everything from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “The Ring” to his name.
“It’s a big ask to get people to go the movie theaters and pay too much for popcorn,” says Verbinski, 52. “So you have this ‘eventizing’ of that experience. The more that happens, the more the good writing runs to television. … The end result of that is, it’s a lot easier to get $150 million or $8 million, [than] to try to get $38 [million].”
Super producer Arnon Milchan helped shepherd the project along and Verbinski found his way to Germany, to scout castles and other turn-of-the-century locations for the film about a hotshot Wall Street executive (Dane DeHaan), tasked with extricating his company’s CEO from an asylum in the Alps where dark and sinister happenings are afoot.
Verbinski’s career spans a multitude of genres, but he’ll always be closely associated with horror because of “The Ring,” one of his biggest successes. By any definition, “A Cure for Wellness,” with its Lovecraftian vibes, amounts to a return to that world.
The filmmaker, an Oscar winner for “Rango,” has consistently defied straightforward expectations in his work, however, and he wants “A Cure for Wellness” to do more than just scare you.
“I refer to it as a contemporary gothic, contemporary in the sense that when the curtain closes, I don’t want you to just go, ‘Oh, that was a headless horseman,’ or something,” Verbinski says. “I want it to affect you and linger.”
Gore Verbinski’s top 5 films
1 “The Weather Man” Nicolas Cage gives one of his finest performances in this endearingly weird midlife crisis drama.
2 “Pirates of the Caribbean” The Curse of the Black Pearl” The massive franchise began under Verbinski’s steady leadership in 2003 and the first movie is still the best.
3 “MouseHunt” Nathan Lane and Lee Evans do the Laurel & Hardy thing in this entertaining and underrated family movie.
4 “Rango” Verbinski won an Academy Award for this animated take on “Chinatown” centered on a chameleon.
5 “The Ring” A commercial and critical success, this 2002 horror movie stands the test of time.