Screams From The Crypt: Gore Verbinski
Welcome back to Screams from the Crypt, the Talk Film Society’s home for horror! This week we're going to be taking a peek at Gore Verbinski, one of the most visually arresting and inventive filmmakers in the business. Purveyor of gorgeous images and completely bonkers horror and adventure films, Gore Verbinski has long challenged and shocked his audiences, and gained a legion of fans in the process.
The Ring (2002)
With only his third picture, Gore Verbinski put his unique stamp on the horror genre with The Ring, one of the best horror remakes ever made. The Japanese original, Ringu, was a huge success it its native country so obviously an American studio, in this case DreamWorks, was hot to release a version of their own for some of the sweet domestic box office. They were smart to go with Verbinksi, a director who had proven to be able to deliver slick visuals with his debut film Mousehunt, and get good performances from actors as seen in 2001's The Mexican. Turns out horror was Verbinski's wheelhouse, since even when he isn't making films in the genre, there's a sense of dread and foreboding to be had. Flash forward to Pirate of the Caribbean: At World's End where he opens the Disney film with the hanging of a small child and it's clear that he has a bit of a mean streak.
The story of The Ring has been written about for years and at great length but simply put it's concerns one woman's battle with a haunted VHS tape. Coming off of a still career best performance in David Lynch's Mulholland Dr., Naomi Watts plays Rachel Keller, a reporter who has received the the tape and is in a race against the clock to solve the mystery and save her son, the young and talented David Dorfman. What follows is what can only be described as a mystery nightmare collage, filled with unsettling imagery and scares that hold up fifteen years after its initial release.
It's no small task to remake one of the greats, but Verbinski was clearly up to the task. This is a film that sticks with you, its images indelibly etched into a corner of your brain. Much like the curse of the tape, once you see The Ring, you'll never escape its clutches. It's one of the ages, and the success it had eventually got Verbinski the gig as the helmer of the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, the films for which he is most known and celebrated for.
Available on DVD and Blu-ray via Paramount, it belongs in your collection.
A Cure For Wellness (2017)
Welcome to Verbinksi's latest house of horrors. A Cure For Wellness may very well be the most insane big budget horror film to come along in years. What is on the surface a simple sanitarium horror show, slowly reveals itself to be a biting look at capitalism and consumerism, forbidden sexual relationships, the healthcare system, and eels, lots and lots of eels. After the box office disapointment of 2013's The Lone Ranger, and the crumbling of his highly anticipated Bioshock adaptation (from which some set designs were used here), it would be a little over three years before Verbinski would come roaring back with about 57 metric tons of crazy.
The always reliable Dane DeHaan plays Lockhart, a young Wall Street wunderkind, sent to the Swiss Alps in order to bring the CEO of his company back to New York for an important merger. Too bad for him that Dr. Volmer, a deliciously evil Jason Isaacs, clearly doesn't care for outside interference in his grand plan and has zero intentions of letting Lockhart just leave with his prized pet. The Volmer Institute is a haunted house of sorts with a sordid history and more secrets than can be counted, all of which are sinister or disgusting in nature, least of which is the titular watery Cure. Verbinski really throws every bit of crazy he can muster at the screen; unwanted dentistry, a hidden murder chamber, internal eels, a cleansing fire, and numerous mazes just to name a few.
Seeing this on opening weekend with a near empty theater was a disheartening experience. A Cure For Wellness is a film that, despite all of its faults, is one of my favorite films of the year and one that I would recommend wholeheartedly. It's baffling that a film this gross and weird would get such a massive budget and a major release by a studio in this day and age, and for that alone it should be celebrated. Never one to shy away from the macabre, as showcased in the Phantom of the Opera-esque finale, Verbinski has crafted a picture of such pure vision, it's hard not to love it.
The newly released Blu-ray, though light on the bonus features, is well worth owning for what is included. The highlight being a deleted scene entitled "It's Wonderful Here" which features some claustrophobia inducing treatments and some horrific imagery straight out of The Ring. With a theatrical runtime of almost two and a half hours, it makes sense that this scene was cut for time, but seen on it's own as a Verbinski short film, it's truly immaculate. Speaking of immaculate, the transfer that's been included on the disc is one of the most gorgeous I've seen outside of a 4K disc. Joining forces with his longtime cinematographer Bojan Bazelli (The Ring, The Lone Ranger), the visuals are not only captivating but horrific as well. There's some truly grisly images on display and the HD presentation does nothing the hide that. Also included is a quick featurette that takes the view through the creation of the lovely musical score composed by Benjamin Wallfisch.
A Cure For Wellness is the most audacious studio picture released in 2017 thus far. A cornucopia of batshit insanity that's going to unsettle all but the most hardened horror connoisseurs, it's nice to have Gore Verbinski once again making horror films. If he sticks to this mold going forward, fans will be in for a treat. Just don't drink the water.
That's all for this week's installment of Screams From The Crypt. We'll be back next week, so until then...
Stay Tuned and Stay Scared!