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THE CLEANSE (2016)
aka THE MASTER CLEANSE
Directed by Bobby Miller
Written by Bobby Miller
Starring Johnny Galecki, Anna Friel, Kyle Gallner, Oliver Platt, Anjelica Huston, Kevin J. O’Connor, Loretta Walsh, Diana Bang, Candus Churchill
Find out more about this film here!
THE CLEANSE is almost there. It’s almost a perfect little quirky film. It’s a movie with all the right parts, though they are odd parts. It’s just that it doesn’t seem like the filmmakers went for it enough for the film to be absolutely great. Still, the film is pretty darn good. I promise to be more concise in the review below.
THE BIG BANG THEORY’s Johnny Galecki plays a heartbroken and lost Paul who sees the answer to his prayers in an ad for a product called The Cleanse. After passing a live test, he is whisked away to a cabin community in the middle of nowhere where he is given an especially potent mix of solitude, release of frustration through screaming and meditation, and a drink called the Master Cleanse. But while most cleanses get rid of gross toxins in your system, this one makes you barf up your actual demons. The thing is, these demons are pretty cute at first, depending solely on its owner to survive and while the first part of the process is to nurture and care for it, the latter part is to destroy one’s demons. That’s the hard part.
Filmmaker Bobby Miller has put together a crafty little film, full of eccentric characters and odd little moments. Galecki is not your typical leading man, but does a fantastic job of playing everyman Paul. There’s an accessibility to him that makes you believe he might be in the low situation he finds himself in, yet he isn’t wallowing in it so much that it is off putting. He is skeptical of this Cleanse, but desperately wants to be better. Anna Friel is equally wracked with sorrow and guilt, but has that spark that again makes you want good things for her, so seeing these two people try to undergo this odd gauntlet of cleansing is believable and makes me invest in their futures more than I thought I would.
As invested as these two characters (as well as Kyle Gallner, Diana Bang, and Kevin J. O’Connor, who all have lesser, but pretty interesting journeys through this cleanse). The main problem I have with THE CLEANSE is that the gauntlet really isn’t that grueling. I would have loved to see the pomp and effort go past the concept of killing one’s own demon, at least at first. I kind of wanted a bit more kooky, hippy-dippy stuff from Lily (Anjelica Huston) and the creator of the Cleanse Ken Roberts (Oliver Platt). I wanted them to sell it a bit more than just a roto-rooter for one’s soul. Maybe condition the recipients or train them to be able to kill these monstrous things when the time comes. Somewhere along the process line, something is missing that really would drive the point home thematically before plunging the characters into this very dark place. The fact that the film is so short (about an hour and 15 cents), I feel most likely, the money ran out to film some scenes or some crucial scenes of establishment were cut. Still, Platt and Huston are good in their roles, but not given the room to do the amazing stuff they usually do here.
Still, the effects of THE CLEANSE are especially good. They looked practical. The little demons are both cute and diabolical—disgusting, yet sympathetic. I had a lot of fun with THE CLEANSE. Even though it came up just short of great, it still is a worthwhile ride and possesses that certain “something” that makes it stand out from the usual horror feature. There’s a definite heart and purpose to the film and while the body horror can be a bit gross at times, it still tells a tale that is resonant and poignant all at once.
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