Part-home invasion horror, part-jealousy melodrama, The Cleaning Lady is a an initially shocking film, yet ultimately struggles to stand out in its genre.
A slow pace that feels tedious at times is remedied by the twisted handling of dark themes that could sicken even the strongest of stomachs. But leaves you with a feeling that something is missing.
According to the pre-film message by director and screenwriter Jon Knautz, the idea for this film had been in his mind for over a decade. It shows in the dark themes presented to the viewer; it is clearly premeditated. He tells the story of Alice (Alexis Kendra) a basic Los Angeles girl who is tied up in an affair with a married man. She befriends her cleaner, Shelly (Rachel Alig), whose face is scarred by burns. This premise sets up an interesting dynamic between the two, with Alice taking pity upon Shelly, and Shelly being portrayed as a twisted, strange person with a tormented past.
SPOILERS AHEAD: Shelly’s facial scarring is the result of an altercation she had as a teenager with a client of her mother’s. Her rebellion is warranted because she is being illegally prostituted by her bipolar, manipulative mother as a way to earn a living without lifting a finger herself.
The violence portrayed in the film plays a large role in the shock value as well. However, it is just that, a momentary shock to the system that doesn’t hang around. Mediocre writing and a bog-standard, forgettable soundtrack fail to create a story.
To its credit, The Cleaning Lady has creative cinematography that has been carefully crafted to created a feeling of claustrophobia. Much like Alice, the viewer is stuck in a microcosm of insignificant worries echoing off the walls of the small rooms.
Despite its slow pacing, subpar acting and uninteresting soundtrack, Knautz’s film delivers a unique take on a story of jealousy and lost youth with well-executed horror techniques. The story might not be a permanent chemical burn but, at least, it might leave a temporary blister.
The Cleaning Lady was shown at Grimmfest 2018. At the time of writing, the film has not been released in UK cinemas and is unavailable online.