Can you ever truly judge a book by its cover? Be warned: in the brand-new Horror-Thriller The Cleaning Lady, no one is exactly as they initially seem. Presented by RLJE Films, the movie made its world premiere at FrightFest 2018, but it now arrives to On Demand, Digital HD, and DVD on Tuesday, June 4th, 2019.
In apartment 508 resides a beautiful blonde woman named Alice (Alexis Kendra: Valentine’s Day 2010, Goddess of Love 2015), a Barbie look-alike who seemingly has it all. An in-demand aesthetician and Pilates enthusiast who exists surrounded by poshness, one might assume that everything is unicorns and rainbows in her world. Of course, we all have our troubles, and Alice is struggling with an addiction—to her married lover Michael (Stelio Savante: The Sopranos series, Ugly Betty series). Despite understanding that her affair is wrong, she loves Michael and it has also been very difficult to turn down the gifts he is lavishing upon her—including an upcoming three-week tour of Italy.
Despite specifically requesting that no one enter her home while she’s out, Alice returns one afternoon to find a stranger unclogging her bathroom drain. Thanks to this snafu, she meets the shy and soft-spoken Shelly (Rachel Alig: Bikini Spring Break 2012, At Granny’s House 2015), a hard-working maintenance woman whose face and neck are covered in burn scars. A short conversation leads the blonde to offer Shelly a job cleaning her apartment twice weekly for cash, which, in turn, leads to a friendship of sorts.
As Alice tries to gently coax Shelly to let her walls down, she also opens up about her own personal struggles—including her doomed relationship with Michael. Just when you start to feel sympathetic towards both of these ladies, there’s a twist that shows that someone has a very complicated past and is currently living a seriously disturbing, secret life!
Clocking in at 90 minutes, The Cleaning Lady was directed by Jon Knautz (Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer 2007, Goddess of Love 2015) and was written by Knautz and lead actress Kendra. The film also features the acting talents of Elizabeth Sandy (Starting from Scratch 2013, Goddess of Love 2015), Mykayla Sohn (Guys with Kids series, House of Darkness 2016), JoAnne McGrath (Hideaway short 2016, Palm Drive short 2017), Logan Garretson (Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp series, The Boonies series), and more.
The Cleaning Lady kicks off to a truly disturbing scene and then takes its time developing its two main female characters, Alice and Shelly. That means that the action doesn’t begin to unfold until the film’s third act, which is a blessing for those that love character development and a curse to those that have come solely for the bloodshed. However, all viewers should be warned: this film contains heavily implied scenes of child sexual abuse and pedophilia. A true entry into the Horror-Thriller genre, The Cleaning Lady certainly splashes some blood throughout its bleak tale.
Again, The Cleaning Lady does a superb job at creating two initially sympathetic female characters. As Alice, Kendra is the near reverse of the stereotypical attractive and well-to-do woman: never obnoxious or entitled, always sweet in her dealings with others. In fact, Alice is fully likable: someone that any of us could easily befriend thanks to her outgoing and congenial nature. Though she is struggling with her “love addiction” and trying to call off her affair with a married man, she is fully aware that what she is doing is wrong and destined to end poorly. She’s an intelligent woman and a well-rounded character who feels real. It’s a testament to Kendra’s acting that we are so sympathetic toward Alice, and no matter how insane the situation gets throughout the film she effectively communicates emotional anguish. When she is forced to make some heart-wrenching choices, we bleed along with Alice.
Alig’s Shelly is sympathetic in a different sense: a woman who is literally scarred by her past, she is timid and socially awkward. She is the mousey, quiet young woman who keeps to herself as she toils away at her menial job. Desperately in need of a friend, Alig’s Shelly is the perfect fit for Kendra’s Alice, a woman who could also use a shoulder to cry on. However, it is McGrath’s demented mother figure who provides some of the most chilling and truly disturbing moments of the film. Able to flip between a saccharine sweet Donna Reed-type and something grotesque, McGrath’s eerie performance adds a zest to the flashback scenes that is definitely worth noting.
Meant to be truly disturbing, The Cleaning Lady certainly has its moments but it’s not going to turn the stomachs of any die-hard Horror fans. Rather than building suspense, the film delves into its backstory in order to create characters who are sympathetic—that is, before they go off the deep end. Horrifying in its uncensored look at the darkest depths of humanity, The Cleaning Lady is perfectly bleak. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give The Cleaning Lady 4 of 5 stars.