Review: THE CLEANING LADY Needed Some Extra Elbow Grease

The Cleaning Lady is a new horror-drama film directed by Jon Knautz and written by Knautz and star Alexis Kendra. The film follows a woman who, struggling with a sex-and-love addiction, befriends a quiet and disfigured cleaning lady, soon learning that scars can go deeper than the surface.

Undeniably the most interesting part of this film is the perspective which it offers. It is unusual for a film to present characters like these in this way, and as such, it feels fresh and unique. The film does a great job of showing how abuse of any kind can have an effect on not only those who are directly involved, but also others later in life. However, despite this interesting perspective, the film is never able to really find its protagonist, and as such, audiences may have a hard time getting behind the story.

Another issue with the film is that it is so inconsistent. The first hour of the film barely feels like a horror movie, instead having a focus on melodrama. Had the film stuck with that, it likely would have been far more compelling, but the bonkers third act comes in from left field and ruins all that came before. Although horror hounds will likely be pleased with the grisly finale, it doesn’t offer the closure which more story-oriented individuals will be desiring.

The pacing of the film is equally inconsistent, resulting from the uneven plotting of the film. The very beginning of the film is extremely slow, almost annoyingly so. The middle portion of the film feels just right, one scene in particular being quite suspenseful. This steam is lost heading into the third act, though, as all logic seems to be lost, the narrative becomes even sloppier, and the mindless gore becomes more abundant. Then the film ends abruptly.

The film does introduce some very interesting thematic threads involving adultery and child abuse, but neither of these is used effectively. Somehow, the film manages to feel like it both leaves these elements underdeveloped and bashes them over your head. As a whole, the film would have benefitted from having more subtlety and nuance rather than obvious surface-level commentary.

Unfortunately, the actors in the film disappoint as well. There is very little chemistry between Kendra and Rachel Alig, so it is difficult to buy into the dynamic that is happening between them. On their own, they each have a few solid moments, but this film is dependent on them bouncing off of each other, and they fail in so doing. Mykayla Sohn plays a younger version of one of the characters and shows a great deal of promise, although she does have some over-the-top moments.

On a technical level, the film was mostly unimpressive because of how plain it was. For a horror film that aims to be shocking and grisly, there is precious little that is memorable about the kills. There is only one scene — the most effective scene in the film — that has any type of a lingering effect. The rest come and go in an instantly forgettable way.

Overall, The Cleaning Lady had a lot of potential, but it doesn’t deliver. Apart from one strong sequence in the middle, there is little reason to watch it.

The Cleaning Lady hits DVD and VOD on June 4.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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