Main cast: Alexis Kendra (Alice), Stelio Savante (Michael), Rachel Alig (Shelly), Elizabeth Sandy (Helen), and JoAnne McGrath (Colleen)
Director: Jon Knautz
Alice is the quintessential housewife. She lives in a nice, big house with a husband who bores her, and she is sleeping with a married man. Only, she is trying to quit seeing her lover, Michael, and she also has problems finding a reliable cleaning lady. When the badly scarred and shy Shelly shows up to clean her place, Alice decides that this cleaning lady will be the perfect distraction when it comes to getting her mind off her lover – she will befriend Shelly, give the girl a makeover, that kind of thing. Only, our cleaning lady has issues – to put it mildly – and she believes that Alice is the perfect lady to look up to. When she learns that Alice is committing adultery with another married man, she decides that she must help cleanse Alice and make that woman pure again… and her methods aren’t very nice at all.
Ah yes, The Cleaning Lady is another crazy “I thought she was my BFF!” movie, but here, the violence and gore levels are upped considerably, putting it more squarely into torture porn horror territory rather than thriller. I admit I like the gore, and I also like how dark and sick the whole thing can be, but here’s the thing. I watch this one due to all the rave reviews I come across on various websites, praising this as some kind as revolutionary torture porn stuff. Maybe it’s just my expectations being set too high by these people, but I end up feeling that much of this time is composed of elements that I have come across many times already in other similar movies.
Or, to put it simply, there are way too many clichés here for its own good, especially everything about Shelly. I don’t know why those reviewers that praise this movie act like Shelly’s past is so shocking and groundbreaking when it’s been done many times before from any random Thai horror movie to Mary Shelley herself. The moment this character’s back story begins to unfold, I quickly and correctly call the direction it is going to head towards. I believe I am supposed to be conflicted about Shelly, but what I really feel is that this is yet another cliché trying way too hard to be edgy.
Also, the humor is off. Alexis Kendra, who co-wrote the script, can’t seem to decide whether she wants to do zany or serious, so she ends up making one-liners and quips at the most inopportune times here and there. When I am supposed to be scared, Alice will be shrieking and hyperventilating like some overactive actress on Adderall, or she decides to go all sarcastic and quippy. The violence feels very real and terrifying, but it’s hard for me to get into the whole torture and gore when I feel like these things are being done to Looney Tunes characters.
Is The Cleaning Lady worth a look? Well, I suppose it is, if one is a fan of those edgy torture porn-y stuff from Japan and such; while this isn’t close to being as gloriously sick like some of those things, it captures the tone and desolate despair of those movies well. However, the balance between absurd and genuine twisted sickness is way off, making this one leer clumsily between being a cartoon and being a genuinely terrifying morality tale of always keeping your household staff at a distance. We don’t want the vermin to forget their places and do bad things to everyone, after all!
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