Spoiler Warning: As the title suggests this article is riddled with spoilers for A Cure For Wellness. In fact, it spells out the entire ending. So if you haven't seen it yet, throw yourself upon a stretcher and wheel yourself away, now.
If you're still with us then you've probably just seen Gore Verbinski's latest offering, A Cure For Wellness, the mind-melting horror about an ambitious young executive sent on a mission to retrieve his CEO from a remote "wellness retreat" in the Swiss Alps. And you're probably crouched in the corner of a dark room, protecting your teeth from drill-baring deviants, and wondering "what da fuq did I just watch?" You were also probably so focused on Jason Isaacs sudden (and literal) change of face that you missed some of the key points that explained what #ACureForWellness was actually about.
If that sounds like you, you are not alone. Here we'll attempt to answer the key questions you will have surrounding A Cure For Wellness's creepy AF ending. So, let's put those final moments into the isolation tank, shall we?
So, first things first:
Who Actually Was Volmer And What Was His Goal?
Volmer is the director of the wellness center and the man whose ideas and regulations keep the place ticking. However, as the film goes on it becomes abundantly clear that this is a seriously shady guy with some dark hidden motives — motives that seem to revolve around a young patient by the name of Hannah (Mia Goth). But what were they?
To answer that question we have to first look at the fictional history that was woven into the narrative from the beginning. Firstly, the spa is situated on a hilltop and was, two centuries ago, inhabited by a baron and his sister whom he loved (in an incesty way, not a sibling way), but she suffered a terrible illness. In a bid to find the cure for his love, the baron would snatch people from the village beneath the hill and force upon them hideous medical experiments. Until, predictably, a revolt came his way — and the villagers killed his wife in a fiery blaze of fury.
- History Repeats Itself: Was 'A Cure For Wellness' Based On This Harrowing True Story?
- The Highest Grossing Horror Movies Of 2016 Reveal What We Love To Fear
- Is 'Split' Scary? The Most Shocking Moments From M. Night Shyamalan's Horror
Later in the movie we learn that his wife was not "ill" but that she was infertile, and that had scuppered the baron's fascist plans to forge a pure blood line. We then learn that, miraculously, she had been pregnant before her death but before she succumbed to the flames, the baron cut her open and retrieved the baby — a scene that's echoed in the movie with the birth of a baby deer, before the mother is swiftly slaughtered.
Later still, when Mr. Lockhart (Dane Deehan) inspects a photograph in Volmer's office, he sees that a burn victim is roaming the spa's grounds with a small child in tow. Well, spoilers, that burn victim was the baron and that child was his daughter. And, double spoilers, the baron is also Volmer and the child is Hannah, the inmate with a "special condition." And they've been alive for the past two centuries.
WTF? How Did They Live For 200 Years?
Simply put, it's in the water. And the vitamins. And those fucking gross-ass eels that slithered their flesh-munching souls throughout the entire movie. And it doesn't really make sense, but hey — fiction will be fiction. So here's a brief explanation:
The wellness retreat is set within the Swiss Alps surrounded by a special kind of mountain water that keeps these eels alive for 300 years, which Volmer discovered via the old medical texts you see scattered in his laboratory. They do, however, need to be fed. So the demented doctor devises a tit for tat-style plan: He thieves the eels life-extending properties and, in return, delivers them the dried up old corpses of former patients to chew upon.
And this becomes a sort of conveyor belt operation, which works as follows: Patients drink the water, which contains the fibers of these ancient eels, which in turn makes them sick (severely dehydrated) and thus they need to stay at the retreat longer. As their treatments become increasingly invasive (and they hit delusional levels), they're placed in tanks and forced to drink water that contains the eels, absorbing their properties via ingestion of the skin. These tanks then extract a "vitamin," an elixir of life if you will, which — to quote Mr. Lockhart — tastes of sweat and fish. And it's this vitamin that, taken regularly, has kept Volmer and Hannah alive for so long. Once the patients have been drained of all their nutrients, they're shoved in a pool for the eels to eat and the whole process starts agin.
OK, But What's The Point? Why Did Volmer Want To Create An Elixir Of Life?
Well — and this is where the plot gets all kinds of fucked — Volmer has essentially been grooming his daughter for the past 200 years, making sure she takes her vitamins regularly, in order to bang her, impregnate her, and keep his fascist desire for a pure bloodline alive. And the reason he had to wait so long? He couldn't complete any sordid activities until she started her period.
As Hannah had been ripped from the womb prematurely, she developed slowly — a "special case" — so Volmer had to be patient. He even kept a shrine to her mother, his sister, surrounded by candles in his hidden quarters, and kept the incest bed in full working order should he need to make a prompt entry.
Thankfully, when menstruation finally kicks in for Hannah, Mr. Lockhart has already kind of pieced together the puzzle and is there to kick some Volmer ass, and burn the dream — and the doctor — alive. Because, as is a constant theme throughout the film, history always repeats itself.
Tl;dr: A Cure For Wellness is essentially about a fascist, Voldemort-esque, ancient incest baron masquerading as a health guru/spa director, pillaging bodies and creating magic eel water so he can keep his daughter alive long enough for her to menstruate so he can impregnate her. (It's also a commentary on society, ambition and the pursuit of clean-living, but primarily it's the incest baron thing).
Did I miss anything vital out of this explanation? If so, sound off in the comments!