Tuesday, June 4, 2019


The Cleaning Lady (2018) d. Jon Knautz (USA) (90 min)

Professional aesthetician and self-described “love addict” (complete with AA-type meetings) Alice (Alexis Kendra) finds herself embroiled in an affair with married man Michael (Stelio Savante) who seems to have no intention of leaving his wife (Elizabeth Sandy). On the advice of her sponsor, she institutes a “no contact” rule and attempts to reset her life, starting with hiring her condo’s maintenance woman Shelly (Rachel Alig) to clean her house. The two begin a tentative friendship, Alice feeling sympathy for her shy and sheltered employee, who bears severe scarring on her facial features, and Shelly reveling in the attention shown her by this immaculately beautiful woman. But when Michael continues to call/text and Alice violates her vow of separation, Shelly’s image of her newfound “perfect” friend is threatened and steps must be taken – cleansing steps – to help.

Knautz (Jack Brooks Monster Hunter, GirlHouse) and Kendra (Hatchet II, Big Ass Spider) wrote and produced The Cleaning Lady together, borrowing a few clichés of the “psychological thriller” subgenre (Sleeping with the Enemy, Single White Female, Sliver) and juicing them up with horror elements (a rat smoothie is concocted over the opening credits) to create a relatively satisfying shocker that manages to surprise, even if sometimes it’s purely from a place of “Huh. They went THERE.”

Kendra and Alig give solid lead performances, although the latter is saddled with stiff prosthetics covering her face as well as a thousand-yard-stare that gives her a very limited emotional range in which to move. It’s understandable, given the trauma her character has endured (shown in cringe-inducing flashbacks, featuring Mykayla Sohn as the younger Shelly), even if it doesn’t necessarily translate into an engaging dramatic arc, though Alig manages to convey volumes with a simple glance or sigh. By contrast, Kendra is given a multitude of colors to play, bouncing easily from one to the other, although she’s so relatable and sympathetic that the “ugly on the inside” contrast that she and Knautz might have been going for gets muddied.

Predictably, Shelly is revealed to be the misshapen and misguided villain of the piece (especially when we see the depths of depravity to which she has descended), and the fact that we end up rooting for the object of her affection, the traditional beautiful protagonist, feels like a missed opportunity. And while the screenwriters work overtime justifying why Shelly might have become a monster, it’s a bit of a leap that she would become the kind of monster seen here, making the should-be shocking conclusion feel a bit gratuitous.

With its not-bad plot twists, impressive practical effects, and capable acting all around, fans of indie horror will likely enjoy Knautz’s latest effort (expanded from his short film of the same name), even if convenience and coincidence sometimes hold sway over the proceedings.

The Cleaning Lady is available now On Demand, Digital HD, and DVD (with no extras) through RLJE Films and can be ordered HERE:




  1. This has been on my list for quite a while!

    1. I'll be curious to hear what you think of it!

  2. Our opinions differ quite a bit on this one!

  3. Oops! I got distracted and hit publish too soon. What I meant to say was our opinions differ quite a bit on the movie and if you would care to, I would be very pleased if you would like to read my blog post of it.


    1. Great write-up!!!!

      What's interesting is that I don't think our opinions are that different, to be honest. I think we both find it to be a so-so horror effort, and the biggest difference is which of the two main characters (and the actress portraying her) we found more believable and complex. But at the end of the day, I think neither of us loved the film and probably aren't going to revisit it any time soon.