When I watch a movie, it’s like there are two of me in the same seat. There’s that regular movie-going guy who likes blood and boobs and things that explode, the kind of movies we call POPCORN MOVIES. But there’s another fellow who accompanies him. This guy likes some of the same things as his friend, but he is a seeker and connoisseur of SERIOUS CINEMA. This guy doesn’t just want to see a movie, he wants it to change his life. It goes without saying that these guys don’t always see eye to eye. POPCORN: Dude, you got any Nyquil? CINEMA: You must have a hot date tonight. POPCORN: No, dickweed, I got a cold. And I really just want some sleep. CINEMA: Well, I don’t have any cold medicine, but <chuckles> I know a very special spa where you could go to feel better. POPCORN: You know my broke ass can’t even afford Ramen noodles, so that’s either some kinda insult or a movie reference I’m obviously too stupid to get. CINEMA: Actually, it’s both. But first I have to ask, how is your soul? I mean, are you feeling okay about this crazy modern world and your place in it? Are you looking for some peace? POPCORN: Uh . . . you didn’t, like, suddenly get religious, did you? CINEMA: Oh, God no. But I am about to show you the light. POPCORN: <sighs> Next time I’m just gonna shoplift. Alright, what you got? Cinema clicks the remote and a video comes to life on the television screen. A woman is submerged in murky water, turning slowly round and round in the depths. The white of her simple dress flows and waves gently. The image is very tranquil. A smooth voice begins to speak. “Welcome to wellness. Today we will focus on the most important element of life . . . water. Human beings need water because we are water. So let’s begin by finding a comfortable position. Now close your eyes and purify your thoughts.” The woman continues to turn, lazily, peacefully. “Breathe in. Breathe out. Imagine yourself in a neutral state. You feel a cool wetness at your feet.” (Popcorn had to admit that, yes, there was some wetness.) “Water . . . a bubbling stream. Let the calming waters move over your toes. Feel the liquid rise, moving up your ankles, your calves. Breathe in . . . exhale deeply.” (Popcorn closes his eyes, breathes in, then out. Then coughs.) “The water reaches your waist. Relax. Let the water rise with each breath. Breathe. Let the cool water cross your shoulders. Feel the toxins leaving your flesh. Let the water cover your head.” (Popcorn’s eyes open, slightly concerned.) “You are holding your breath now. Accept the futility of your existence. It’s okay. It is all part of the cure. Breathe out. Empty your lungs fully and let the water in. Let go. You’re calm and relaxed. You’re almost at peace. You’re in total darkness. Embrace the hopelessness in which you are submerged. It’s wonderful here.” The woman continues to turn, slowly, peacefully, because she is dead. “This has been a wellness meditation. Danke shon.” POPCORN: Dude, that’s . . . CINEMA: Amazing, right? POPCORN: I was thinkin’ more like I wanna borrow your bathtub and a razor. CINEMA: I know, isn’t it great? POPCORN: Okay, so you joined a cult. That’s alright. They got these dudes that can, like, bust up all that programming in your head and make you normal again. CINEMA: Normal is for dullards without imagination. So you’ve really never seen this? It was one in a series of three promotional videos for a psychological horror film released earlier this year, a much-overlooked feature called A CURE FOR WELLNESS – POPCORN: Yeah, I’m feelin’ better already. CINEMA: The film was written by Justin Haythe, likely inspired by Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, and directed by Gore Verbinski. It received mixed reviews – mostly with good reason, which I’ll get to in a moment – and was generally considered a box office bomb, grossing a mere $26 million against its $40 million production budget. In the film, a young man named Lockhart is tasked by the corporation he works for to bring his CEO back from a secluded Swiss Alps resort. However, things naturally take a turn and he is unable to leave, slowly discovering that the spa is run on something a bit more sinister than just fresh spring water. POPCORN: Wait, was there a bunch of eels and shit in it? CINEMA: There were indeed eels . . . as in, swarming the waters that flow beneath the resort, which was built over the remains of another, much older place. The clinic director, Dr. Heinrich Volmer, initially comes off as a more subtle version of the old Hollywood Nazi scientist. However, before Lockhart can heed the warning bells going off in his head, he meets a strange and mysterious young woman named Hannah. Portrayed by Mia Goth – POPCORN: The chick with all the eels squirmin’ around her in the tub. CINEMA: – who is like a slightly more attractive Sissy Spacek, she is the only person at the spa who’s not an octogenarian – POPCORN: Not sure which flick you were watchin’, but none-a them people had eight arms. CINEMA: No, octogenarian, as in elderly people. POPCORN: Well, why didn’t you just say that? CINEMA: Oh, I’m sorry, did I use a word with more than two syllables? I forgot that the bulk of your reading comes from Hustler and Little Golden Books. Hey, wait, you’ve seen it? POPCORN: Saw it with you, dumbass. Who else would pay for my movie ticket? Damn, dude, it ain’t just erectile dysfunction, now you’re losing your memory too. Maybe you’re one-a those octopus-people. CINEMA: Really? Wow, I don’t remember. POPCORN: Yeah, you were all stressed out that day. You get like that whenever you listen to NPR and they talk about Trump. Thought you were gonna have to start breathin’ in a bag or something. Shoot, maybe you oughta visit that place. CINEMA: Huh. Well, there’s a great deal of pressure on me. POPCORN: From what, your job stocking shelves? CINEMA: Hey, that’s only temporary, until my writing career really takes off. The day will come when the world finally recognizes me as a literary genius, throws money and accolades at my feet, and then I’ll have to beat off all the fans. POPCORN: Heh-heh. Until then, you’ll just have to beat yourself off. CINEMA: Whatever, moron. So, the film was directed by Gore Verbinski – POPCORN: Said that already too. Memory, dude. CINEMA: – who is recognized more for his style than his cinematic coherence. Case in point, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, or that most recent attempt at the Lone Ranger. Sometimes I think he wants to be Stanley Kubrick, or maybe a flashier Martin Scorsese. He’s really wearing his influences on his sleeve this time around. For most critics, it was reminiscent of numerous movies, from SHUTTER ISLAND – POPCORN: Didn’t like it. CINEMA: – to Paolo Sorrentino’s YOUTH – POPCORN: Never heard of it. CINEMA: – and even CRIMSON PEAK – POPCORN: Who cares? CINEMA: Wait a minute. So you really didn’t like any of those movies? POPCORN: Nope. CINEMA: And you call yourself a film fan? POPCORN: I don’t call myself nothin’, dude. But I call you a snobby butt-sniffer. And this flick shoulda been called Rich White People’s Problems. CINEMA: That’s a valid observation. POPCORN: For real, man. Who do you know that goes to some fancy resort in the mountains cuz their job flippin’ burgers got ’em down? CINEMA: There is a bit of old Hollywood here, when all horror movies took place among wealthy counts in spooky castles. It wasn’t really until PSYCHO when stories began to focus on people who might merely live in apartments. But I feel like, in this case, that throwback is important and intentional. There’s an inherent metaphor here regarding privilege in the over-medicated modern life, though that message gets buried somewhat by the end of the movie. POPCORN: Like my head was buried in the popcorn bucket cuz it was more interesting? CINEMA: At two-and-a-half hours, it was a bit much for your average audience to endure. But that’s not what I really wanted to say about it. One of the main sources of promotion for this film came in the form of a website called acureforwellness.com. On this site, viewers were able to partake in meditations like the one I showed you. POPCORN: It’s all hopeless, might as well just drown yourself. CINEMA: Exactly. In addition to that video, which was referred to as “Water is the Cure”, there were similar cures for Air and Earth. One of them involves leaping from the cliff of a beautiful mountainous resort, while the other urges you to climb down into the darkness of your own grave. They really were quite clever – POPCORN: Uh . . . yeah. CINEMA: – but there was really no mention of the film throughout any of the videos. So, the argument goes, if you were actually seeking help for either depression or illness and came upon this site, you might not realize that it was promotional material. You might, in fact, be encouraged to do yourself harm. POPCORN: Like, some brain donor jumps in a lake cuz he saw that video? CINEMA: Statistically, someone attempts to commit suicide every 12.3 minutes, and 1.6 million people lose their lives in this way each year. That makes suicide the second leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 44. Hence, an ad campaign based on such images and words as we just experienced is insensitive and irresponsible . . . that’s what many critics of this film have said. POPCORN: Dude, that’s stupid. CINEMA: Suicide is a very serious issue, as is mental illness, and mocking these things should never be tolerated. But you’re saying it’s okay? POPCORN: Come on, dude. You know I ain’t gonna make fun of nobody in particular. Not like that. But folks are gettin’ outta hand with this shit. Everybody’s all, oh no, they showed something bad, so now somebody’s gonna do it. Like some dude is walkin’ around depressed, but he ain’t ever thought about killin’ himself. Then he sees some dumbass video and suddenly he’s hangin’ on to the bottom of the neighbor’s swimming pool? CINEMA: You don’t think it reinforces what he’s feeling? POPCORN: Dude, if you wanna die, you’re gonna see that shit everywhere. Know what I’m saying? Fuckin’ birds chirping, and you’re like, I’m never gonna be that happy. Boom. You see kids playin’ in the park, get all messed-up cuz you remember when you used to be like that, and Boom. Shit, man, you’re depressed all the time. You watched this and you’re still here, making my life miserable. CINEMA: True, but making you miserable brings me great joy. Besides, I’ve never had much hope. I think the rest of the world is finally catching up with that, and they’ve begun to panic. They would rather just remove the offending reminders than actually deal with the problems. POPCORN: Like when a little kid covers his eyes so the monster don’t see him. CINEMA: Like stopping a protest so no one has to think about why they’re protesting. POPCORN: Yeah, but everybody’s crying about something now. Some of ’em with good reason, sure. Everybody oughta have the same rights, you know? The same chances, or whatever, cuz not everybody does. CINEMA: That’s for sure. POPCORN: But that means everybody is gonna get tore up just the same. CINEMA: So we should all live in South Park? POPCORN: Maybe, yeah. CINEMA: But what about the growing insensitivity here in America? POPCORN: Insensitive? Dude, everyone is overly sensitive. I got picked on like a motherfucker growing up. But now we gotta stop the world when some gay kids get picked on? Like, it didn’t matter if I wanted to kill myself cuz of that shit, due to me being straight and white. But now that Little Morrissey is getting it . . . CINEMA: So you have no compassion for their struggle? POPCORN: I got nothin’ but compassion, dude. If I saw somebody hassling some kid because he was gay, I’d beat their ass. Just like I’d beat their ass for hassling a straight kid. But it’s like you and everybody else are talkin’ about equality in a way that separates us even more. What I’m saying is that no kids oughta be feelin’ like they wanna die. CINEMA: Or adults. POPCORN: No, man. But that’s the world we live in, and takin’ all the offensive shit away ain’t gonna change the way people think. Then everybody’s just gonna find different, less offensive shit to be offended by. CINEMA: So all we need to do, in your opinion, is just change how people think? How do you propose we do that? POPCORN: Shit, dude, I don’t know. I just stock shelves like you do. But I think mixing everybody up together is gonna be better than splitting us up even more. Then, like, once we’re all together, just, you know . . . CINEMA: Make fun of everyone? POPCORN: Damn right, dude. People are just ignorant, no matter where they come from. CINEMA: And this comes from you. POPCORN: Tellin’ you, man, I’m a genius. CINEMA: Uh-huh. POPCORN: So you really dug this flick, huh? CINEMA: Maybe the first two hours, when everything was still murky and ambiguous. Then it was just making me think and wonder. But the last half-hour becomes all madcap, bugged-out, and over-the-top. It should have ended with Lockhart sitting on the bench, staring vacantly and contentedly into the distance. POPCORN: I think the whole thing shoulda been like the last half-hour. CINEMA: Nudity, monsters, and fire. POPCORN: Yeah, definitely, and more eels squirming around on naked chicks. CINEMA: So, as usual, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. POPCORN: Yeah, I guess we will. So, dude, you really don’t have any Nyquil? – j meredith POPCORN CINEMA will return next week with some horror for your holiday. Meanwhile, feel free to drop a comment or click a ‘Like’ . . . it makes the guys feel good. Check out our previous editions right here on PSYCHO DRIVE-IN. If you or anyone you know is suffering from suicidal thoughts, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Trained professionals are available to talk 24/7. See larger image A Cure For Wellness [Blu-ray] Brand New, Factory Sealed. New From: $8.95 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.