Nutshell: Bojan Bazelli’s beautiful cinematography and Eve Stewart’s picture-perfect production design are wasted in this derivative horror mishmosh. Speaking of criminal wastes of talent, Celia Imrie, Dane DeHaaan and Jason Isaacs turn in wonderful performances that this film just doesn’t deserve. Pretty it is, but less than halfway through this overlong slog, and it’s obvious that Wellness just doesn’t know what to do with itself. Grade: D
“There’s a terrible darkness here.”
Story: Some guy dies of a heart attack at the office. Another one – a head honcho – goes off to a spa retreat for the uber-rich. The third is tasked with finding the honcho at said spa, and bring him back to work, because apparently nobody thought to ask honcho for power of attorney while he’s gone. Third ends up caught in the strange Hotel California of the spa, and…bring forth the eels!
Genre I’d put it in: Overambitious Overlong Overblown Wannabe Hammer Horror
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Orignal: Oh, it’s original all right. (Apart from all the horror trope shout-outs.)
Gotta say: This film is like a bad boyfriend; all kinds of pretty, and so promising at the start. But then things get weird, creepy, and drag on for far too long. It also doens’t know what it wants to be once it’s got you in it’s clutches. Put simply, Wellness is a clusterfuck. A beautiful, atmospheric clusterfuck, but a clusterfuck nonetheless.
A mishmash of horror films, tropes and clichés from years past: The Shining, The Phantom of the Opera, House of Usher, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Throw in some Shutter Island, and every Hammer and AIP Gothic tale while you’re at it. Wellness is atmospheric and that’s truly glorious, as are the lead performances and the teasing start to the madness. But at almost two and a half hours, Wellness decides that in order to justify the long run time, it’s gotta cram everything into the plot, causing story bloat and unintentional hilarity.
Worst yet, Wellness commits the cardinal sin of horror movies. No, not stupidity; there’s something to be said for a good ol’ fashioned stupid horror movie. Wellness is tacky. Without spoiling too much, (not like you should actually go out and see this dreck) I’ll say that as the head of the spa, Jason Isaacs tries his best to pull together a sinister, looming presence. And all of that hard work and effort is thrown in the trash at the silly, icky, Cosanguinity Ex Machina of a climax that throws his wonderful performance into the trash. (What? If they can make up this crap, I can make up a trope.)
Throw in a hooded secret society, a “secret” in plain sight that nobody at the spa ever decided to check out (a crumbling old remnant of a castle smack dab in the middle of the spa, and nobody ever even goes near it? NOBODY?), and of course a fire that consumes all at the end. Which is kinda what I wish had happened to the original print of this film. Google Wellness and check out the glorious images, and you’ll save yourself from wishing you could cure yourself of the two and a half hour loss of time that you could have spent doing literally anything else.
#Protip: Screenwriter Justin Haythe wrote 2008’s powerful Revolutionary Road. But he also wrote 2013’s stinker The Lone Ranger. With Wellness, looks like he’s in freefall.