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A Cure for Wellness is a 2017 horror film from Gore Verbinski. It stars Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, and Mia Goth. It was released on February 17, 2017.

A young NYC executive named Lockhart (DeHaan) must travel to the Swiss Alps to retrieve his company's CEO after he failed to return from an extended spa stay. Upon his arrival, Lockhart is forced to stay at the spa following a car accident, wherein he stumbles upon a sinister conspiracy stemming from a dark history involving the foundation upon which the spa was built.


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This film contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: This isn't the first movie with Dane DeHaan featuring scenes of teeth being pulled out. However, he's on the receiving end of it here. Even in the other film, he made it quick.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Hannah has some kind of developmental disorder, probably from the fact she's a byproduct of incest.
  • Ambition Is Evil: The patients are said to be ambitious men and women who have driven away everyone else in their quest for wealth and power. Lockhart is presented as being the same at the start of the movie. In contrast the chauffeur who has no such goals in life is the Token Good Teammate.
  • Arc Words: "I am/you are not a well man."
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The baron who owned the lands the wellness center was built on performed horrifying experiments on his peasants to cure his sister-wife's infertility. Turns out the baron is still alive and still performing the experiments.
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  • Artistic License – Medicine: While dehydratation might contribute to gum disease which may degenerate into parodontitis, which may ultimately lead to loss of teeth, this last ailment is far from being the most prominent symptom of the condition.
  • Animal Motif: Eels are a recurring visual motif in the film.
  • Anti-Hero: Lockhart starts off as a Nominal Hero, with his Jerkass demeanor and his selfish motivations to bring Pembroke back. However, once he starts becoming friends with Hannah and becomes a victim to the Spa's treatments, he undergoes some Character Development and becomes an Unscrupulous Hero by the end.
  • Attempted Rape: Volmer tries to rape Hannah and nearly succeeds before Lockhart intervenes.
  • Barefoot Loon: Hannah is perpetually barefoot.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Heinrich Volmer is the director of the sanitarium and uses his patients as unwilling test subjects in unethical experiments. He is also revealed to be the baron who raped his sister and terrorized the local peasants 200 years ago.
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: Hanna steps into a treatment pool against the instructions of Dr Volmer and starts to menstruate, which draws the eels to her. Just when it looks like she's going to be attacked in a feeding frenzy, we then see they're swimming around her in a circle, likely driven off by the toxin in her blood.
  • Bloody Handprint: An innocuous version when the vet leaves one on the medical file that Lockhart gives him to read, tipping off Volmer that he's shown it to someone else.
  • Body Horror: Such examples include Lockhart having his tooth drilled out, as well as Volmer/the baron's true face, which is more of a green, pulsating, disfigured mess.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Lockhart can't read Pembroke's medical file as it's in German, so he asks for a doctor in the village to translate. Unfortunately, the nearest doctors work at the spa, so he has to get the local vet instead.
  • Creepy Uncle: Dr. Volmer acts this way to Hannah who is also his daughter.
  • Crusty Caretaker: The caretaker at the spa usually speaks to Lockhart angrily in German. He also attempts to kill Lockhart when the latter witnesses him Disposing of a Body, but Lockhart bludgeons him to death.
  • Deadly Nosebleed: When Pembroke declares his intention to leave only to be placed in a more advanced treatment program, Lockhart naturally assumes that Volmer is a fraud trying to spin as much money out of his wealthy patients as possible. When Volmer suggests that maybe he too could benefit from treatment, Lockhart scoffs at the idea...until he starts bleeding from the nose and collapses in a faint.
  • Depraved Dentist: One of the doctors is identified by Volmer as an expert dentist and tortures Lockhart by drilling into one of his teeth.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage:
    • In an early scene where Lockhart visits his mother in her retirement home, the movie's theme is diegetically played by a music box owned by his mother.
    • Hannah is heard huming the theme when she meets Lockhart.
  • Dirty Cop: Lockhart escapes to the village and tries to convince the local police officer of what he's seen. Then he sees the blue bottle of 'vitamin' drops on the cop's shelf and realises he's with Volmer, who then turns up claiming that Lockhart is an escaped patient.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: An orderly is supposed to be monitoring Lockhart while he's in a sensory deprivation tank. A female nurse enters and exposes herself to him, so he's too busy engaging in A Date with Rosie Palms to notice that Lockhart is on the point of drowning.
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: Volmer has the necklace belonging to the late Baroness (found while the spa was being built) mounted in his office. He presents it to Hanna for their 'wedding', and she later rips it off and throws it in the water as her father is devoured by eels.
  • Driven to Suicide: During a financial crash, Lockhart's father jumped off a bridge in front of him when he was a child.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Even though Lockhart was a self-righteous prick, he was shocked and horrified when he saw orderlies ruthlessly punch the old man when he woke up screaming, he saw the caretaker dumping the body to the eels where it can be eaten, and he even rescues Hannah from the clutches of the truly unthinkable evils he uncovers.
  • Exploring the Evil Lair: A large part of the movie, and especially so when Lockhart explores the subterranean lake and Volmer's personal underground laboratory, which is replete in 19th century-style with beakers, dissected eels, and scientific notebooks. And a bed.
  • Facial Horror: What Volmer really looks like. His face looks like a significantly fleshier version of Skeltor's face looks like and keeps it hidden with mask-like duplicates he has preserved in his underground laboratory.
  • Fan Disservice: Throughout the entire film, from fat old people wandering around the steam baths to nearly-dead people floating in the water tanks. Hannah, who has been established as Lockhart's crush, is only seen naked in a bath of eels and during the attempted rape by Volmer.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Volmer is usually calm and proper, but he is really a vile psychopath, mad scientist, and incestuous rapist.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • During Hannah and Lockhart trip to a coffee house in the nearby town, Hannah is joined by a group of young women who ask her if she is carrying a tampon because one of the girl would need one urgently, right now; Hannah seems completing baffled by the conversation, which foreshadows she didn't have her first period until a later event in the film.
    • Volmer has a photograph of Hannah on her desk and tells Lockhart Hannah is like a daughter to him. Turns out he's her biological father.
  • Gainax Ending: Volmer is defeated by Hannah and Lockhart and the center burns to the ground as patients continue doing their regular activities outside of the building/continue dancing oblivious to the doctors trying to put out the fire. Not long afterwards, The board of directors show up asking Lockhart what happened to Pembroke and why the facility is on fire. Instead of getting in the car with them, he rides away with Hannah while grinning insanely as the board tries to call him back.
  • Ghibli Hills: Most of the film is set amidst a picturesque mountain range.
  • Go Among Mad People: Lockhart starts to hallucinate as he undergoes the 'treatment'. He accuses Dr Volmer of gaslighting him, though it's not certain to what extent this is true.
  • Gothic Horror: A modern take on the genre, particularly drawing influence on Dracula with a young urban professional traveling to an imposing, Germanic castle where he encounters a monstrous immortal aristocrat who engages in a form of vampirism.
  • Gorn: Averted, actually. While there is definitely gruesome violence, a lot of the film's Squick factor comes from stuff that doesn't feature blood.
  • Handicapped Badass: Subverted. Lockhart confronts a troublemaker in the village bar, but after losing the element of surprise is swiftly knocked down. However,he apparently fairs better off-screen against a doctor and a couple of the male nurses, and is able to escape the dental torture he is being subjected to. His leg also turns out to be intact.
  • Healing Factor: Volmer can regenerate facial wounds in about a minute. Too bad it doesn't work when he gets a shovel to the face.
  • Healing Spring: The aquifer water underneath the sanitarium is said to have unique rejuvenating qualities. While this turns out to be true, it's also revealed to be highly toxic in its natural state and needs to be filtered through human bodies in order to be distilled into a life-prolonging elixir that is safe for consumption.
  • Hey, Wait!: Lockhart steals Pembroke's medical file from Volmer's office, tucking it in the back of his shirt. When he turns to leave, Volmer suddenly calls him back...to give him a urine sample jar.
  • Hope Spot: Lockhart goes through several cruel ones during his stay.
    • The first happens when he goes to the police to tell them about the facility's experiments. At first, things seem like the cop believes him but then he sees a blue vial on a shelf, there by implying that the local police is fully consenting with Volmer and his schemes.
    • The second happens not long afterwards when trying to convince his fellow patients that they're not being cured as they've been led to believe. Some of them begin to rise up, only to begin mindlessly chant "I'm not well" and attack Lockhart.
  • Human Resources: A life extending elixir is derived from poisoning the patients with water containing the unrefined chemical and subjecting them to what is basically a cylindrical mini-oven, distilling their sweat into a refined liquid suitable for safe consumption. After the process has worn out and dehydrated the subjects, their corpses are dumped in the eels' breeding ground.
  • Immortality Immorality: Volmer and his staff are absolutely ruthless in their pursuit of immortality, using their patients as filters for a life-extending elixir in a process that severely dehydrates and ultimately kills them.
  • Insistent Terminology: Lockharts insists that he is not a patient whenever he is addressed as such by Volmer or other members of the sanitarium's staff.
  • The Ingenue: Hannah looks like a young woman, but has the mind of a child due to her sheltered upbringing.
  • Karma Houdini: Volmer dies but most of his equally-sadistic staff escape the fire unharmed.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: ...however, with the facility destroyed, they've likely lost all of the remaining blue vials and will eventually age and die.
  • Karmic Death: Volmer is killed by Hannah, whom he'd tried to rape moments earlier, and then has his body eaten by the same eels he'd been using on his patients.
  • Kindly Vet: Lockhart seeks out a helpful (if a bit gruff) local veterinarian in order to get more information out of Pembroke's medical records.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: A board member notes the Setting Update from the days of The Magic Mountain by sardonically asking who "takes the waters" in this day and age.
  • Light Is Not Good: The interior of the facility has light colors, and all the staff wears white.
  • Like a Daughter to Me: Volmer claims that Hannah is like a daughter to him and even has her photo on his desk. It eventually turns out that she actually is his daughter.
  • Lovecraft Lite: There is a creepy sanitarium where the protagonist questions his sanity, and there is a recurring theme of water throughout the movie, but the antagonist turns out to be only slightly more durable than a normal human.
  • Mad Scientist: The baron of the castle that once stood on the sanitarium's grounds performed experiments on the local peasants, and in the present day, Volmer does the same to his patients. It is eventually revealed that they are actually one and the same person.
  • Mind Control: Volmer is shown to have the sanitarium's patients completely under his sway, possibly as a result of brain damage-induced suggestibility or a side effect of the unrefined chemical that Volmer is using the facility to process. Lockhart nearly suffers the same fate before the ballerina figure his mother gave him brings him back to his senses.
  • Moody Trailer Cover Song: The trailer used an ironic cover of The Ramones' iconic "I Wanna Be Sedated" by Mirel Wagner. The use of drugs and sedatives figures heavily in the movie.
  • Mountaintop Healthcare: Takes place at an isolated "wellness center" deep in the Swiss Alps. Incidentally, the film itself was actually filmed in a real sanatorium in Beelitz, itself notable for receiving Adolf Hitler as a patient during World War I!
  • Mysterious Waif: Despite being something of a self-centered jerk, Lockhart finds himself drawn to the mysterious young girl he sees playing on the ramparts of the sanitarium.
  • No Name Given: We only know Lockhart by his last name.
  • The Ophelia: Hannah; beautiful, naive and childlike, complete with a flowing dress and bare feet. She's not mad however though she does turn out to be a Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter.
  • Orderlies Are Creeps: All the orderlies have a creepy vibe, but our first evidence that they're abusive is shown when one of them punches an old man on a stretcher when he wakes up screaming.
  • Orifice Invasion: In one scene, Lockhart has a tube forced down his throat through which water containing eels is pumped into his stomach.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Due to generations of animosity between the castle and the village, the local hooligans harass the chauffeur when he drives patients up the mountain. When he's off duty, they drink in the same bar together without incident.
  • People Jars: The patients are subjected to regular immersion in tanks.
  • Perverted Sniffing: Volmer does this before he attempts to rape Hannah.
  • The Power of Love:
    • A possible explanation for how Lockhart is pulled out of his treatment-induced complacency at the end of the film; he'd been holding the ballerina figurine from his mother which he had gifted to Hannah, and which Hannah had returned to him earlier.
    • A more sinister variation appears when Volmer suggests that Hannah's first period was brought on by the arrival of Lockhart.
  • Properly Paranoid: The residents of the nearby village are distrustful of the facility.
  • Pure Is Not Good: Volmer/the Baron has an obsession with purity, to the point where he raped his own sister because he believed that no one else was pure enough to bear his child. Towards the end of the film, he tries to forcibly impregnate Hannah, his own daughter.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Volmer looks around his mid-forties, but is actually north of 250 years old. The same goes for Hannah (~200 years) and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the facility's staff, most of whom are hinted to be in their 70s to 80s yet look around 30-40.
  • Released to Elsewhere: The suggestion is made more than once that none of the patients ever leave the spa.
  • The Reveal: Volmer is the baron that lived in the castle that is now the spa. He impregnated his sister, who is the mother of Hannah.
  • The Scapegoat: It's implied this is the real reason the board want to bring Pembroke back, to take the fall for an SEC investigation. They threaten to throw Lockhart under the rails too if he doesn't cooperate, and Pembroke hints he may have done the same to Lockhart's father.
  • Scenery Porn: And that's putting it lightly in terms of how pretty this movie looks. About a good chunk of it was near actual mountains, an abandoned castle and an actual sanitarium where Adolf Hitler was treated.
  • Shout-Out: An orderly can be seen reading Thomas Mann's novel The Magic Mountain, which, like the film, is also set in a remote sanitarium in the Swiss Alps.
  • Slasher Smile: Lockhart gives a rather unsettling one in the film's final shot as he's seen bicycling away with Hannah while the institution burns to the ground and the board of directors try to call him back.
  • Slippery as an Eel: A lot of the film's disturbing imagery involves eels, especially in places where they aren't supposed to be, such as water pipes, bathtubs, and swimming pools. They live in the aquifer under the sanitarium and are unusually long-lived due to the water's rejuvenating qualities. They also eat humans, providing Volmer with a reliable method of disposing of his patients' bodies.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Used with hospital gurneys, iron lungs and dental chairs.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Lockhart cuts off his cast to find his leg isn't broken after all, or if it was the injury has long since healed.
  • Token Good Teammate: The driver is the only person connected to the Volmer Institute who isn't evil. He just simply brings people there and gets paid.
  • The Tooth Hurts:
    • Throughout the movie, patients are shown to be missing teeth, brought on by severe dehydration. Eventually, this happens to Lockhart's right canine.
    • Later on after Volmer catches Lockhart where he shouldn't be, he has his dentist drill through Lockhart's right front tooth without anesthetic. Even worse, it isn't a Gory Discretion Shot.
  • True Blue Femininity: Hannah is consistently shown wearing blue clothing.
  • Überwald: Despite being set in the modern day, the film's setting and atmosphere recall many stereotypes of Central and Eastern Europe in pre-WW1 literature such as Dracula and Frankenstein, including hostile and distrustful villagers, an omimously looming castle, a Mad Scientist performing experiments on humans, and even some kind of vampirism in form of the dehydration process involved in the creation of the life-prolonging elixir.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Volmer goes on one once Hannah objects to his advances, Lockheart snaps out of his brainwashing and the two fight back against him. Right at the moment when Volmer rips his own face off, all bets are off.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Following the wreck no one mentions the fate of the chauffeur and Lockhart doesn't ask. Averted: halfway through the movie it's revealed that he is fine. He got a new car, went right back to work, and lives through the film.
  • White Shirt of Death: Lockhart bleeds on his white patient's shirt when he tooth comes out, and Hanna bleeds on her dress when she menstrates.


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