The lead character is Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), an ambitious but crooked young executive who’s accused of some corporate misdeed in a New York company. As comeuppance, he is ordered to get back their chief executive who’s currently under treatment in the remote Volmer wellness center in Switzerland. He figures it will be a quick journey to the mountain spa, just fetch their CEO and then head back right away to New York.
But no such thing happens. He figures in a car crash involving a deer (spectacularly staged for the camera). It breaks his leg and he’s confined against his will inside the spa where the inmates never leave once they’re taken in. Soon, he is being submerged in baths inside tanks that are swarming with water snakes and strapped into dental chairs with his tooth being drilled without anesthesia ala-Dustin Hoffman in the thriller, “Marathon Man”.
He also encounters a mysterious young patient with the mind of a child, Hannah (Mia Goth of “Nymphomaniac”), whose very existence harbors a deadly 200-year old deadly secret involving rape, murder and incest. Jason Isaacs plays the clinic’s seemingly friendly but actually creepy head doctor, a sinister role that would have been played to perfection in the 60s version of a movie of this sort by the likes of Christopher Lee or Vincent Price. Mia and Jason do well in their respective roles but, sadly, DeHaan does not really come off convincingly as a sympathetic and personable leading man. We don’t really get to care for his character.
The movie is directed by Gore Verbinski, who did the American version of the Japanese horror hit, “The Ring”, three “Pirates of the Caribbean” blockbusters and the monumental flop that was “Lone Ranger”. It offers lavish, very good visuals, with some some scenes stunningly staged, and an eerie production design that borrows freely from “Phantom of the Opera”, “House of Wax” and the earlier Hammer Films versions of “Frankenstein” and “Dracula”.
And the movie just goes on and on interminably, with the film’s excessive length running for an unjustified two hours and a half. A craftier director could have told the same story more swiftly in an hour and a half and a less boring manner. This movie is more of a nightmare than a real cure.