THE CLEANING LADY (2018)
aka SOMETHING FIERCE
Directed by Jon Knautz
Written by Alexis Kendra & Jon Knautz
Starring Alexis Kendra, Stelio Savante, Rachel Alig, Elizabeth Sandy, Mykayla Sohn, JoAnne McGrath, Keri Marrone, Robert Hugh Starr, Carla Wynn, Kim Marie Cooper, Logan Garretson, Zarif, Nicole Watts, Kai Cofer, Skye Sea
Filmmaker Jon Knautz and his co-writer and lead actress Alexis Kendra deliver a surprisingly diabolical and disturbing little gem of a thriller that is reminiscent of SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, but sports quite sharper teeth and fangs. I left THE CLEANING LADY very creeped out, which is just what I like out of a horror film.
Alice (co-writer Alexis Kendra) has trouble with her love life. She’s reluctantly in love with a married man who won’t leave his wife and is in desperate need of a change. Enter Shelly (Rachel Alig); a burn scarred maintenance woman who Alice hires as a cleaning woman. In need of a distraction from her relational predicament, Alice befriends Shelly who is desperate for friendship. Once Alice let’s Shelly into her life, she finds Shelly is very unstable and cuts off the relationship. But what Alice soon finds out is how unstable Shelly really is as her life up to this point has been filled with neglect, abuse, and horrors too many to count.
Taking aspects from MAY and especially SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, THE CLEANING LADY is a story about the dysfunction of relationships and how that can be perverted to truly twisted lengths. The film patiently lays out Alice’s issues with relationships and does this in order to make us believe why she would seek out a friendship with this socially awkward and physically scarred cleaning lady. At the same time, the film also allows us to see behind the curtain of Shelly’s crazy life leading up to her working for Alice and it isn’t pretty. We see some pretty heinous and batshit shenanigans making up Shelly’s life up to this point. It’s uneasy to watch as there is abuse of almost every kind occurring in her sad life. Relying heavily on character, the story unfolds naturally and we understand why these two are drawn together. At the same time, we see how damaged Shelly really is and that comes out the closer she gets to Alice. Because Alice is sane and somewhat normal, she doesn’t understand that letting Shelly in would lead to Shelly becoming obsessed. She’s just doing a good thing and may be a little doing it in a selfish way because she doesn’t want to be alone with her thoughts. For that she pays the price and it’s a gruesome one at that.
Alexis Kendra is a strong actress here, making Alice likable, yet flawed. She is a gorgeous woman, but unafraid to show us that she is far from perfect. But it’s Rachel Alig who steals the show as Shelly. Her mousey performance is creepy from the get go, yet she also is subtly manipulative in a believable way, exploiting Shelly’s good intentions. These are not broad strokes emotions at play there. Every step of this film unfolds in a planned out and nuanced manner and a lot of that has to do with the strong performances from the leading ladies.
THE CLEANING LADY really delivers in the skin crawling scenes. Be it Shelly’s skitterish demeanor at the beginning to her traumatic flashbacks, to the horrors that lurk in Shelly’s home—all of it really does hit its mark and makes this film much more disturbing than I expected. THE CLEANING LADY goes there in terms of horrifying scenes and gnarly gore. It’s not a pretty film, but one that will definitely leave you wanting to clean yourself after watching.