If you Google “the cleaning lady”, you will probably get lots of photos of sweet-faced Marie Kondo. But if you search for “The Cleaning Lady movie”, you’ll get something very different. You’ll find images from, and reviews of, one of the most messed up movies I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen a lot.
I mean this in the best possible way, because the film is so disturbing and so well told, I actually watched it twice in one weekend.
The Cleaning Lady is a 2018 American horror film directed by Jon Knautz. The screenplay was co-written with Alexis Kendra, who also stars as Alice, a woman having an affair with married man Michael (Stelio Savante). Alice befriends her cleaning lady Shelly (Rachel Alig), whose face is scarred by burns.
So far, so good.
This is the official description on Google Play: “A beautiful but lonely women finds companionship with her cleaner, a mysterious girl whose face has been disfigured in a childhood accident. As the relationship develops she discovers the girl has a dark past and soon becomes embroiled in a horrific act of revenge.”
Well, that’s putting it lightly.
WATCH: The trailer for The Cleaning Lady horror film (MA 15+). Only if you dare. Post continues after.
The movie opens with Shelly blending live rats in the dark (we discover later that it’s for…human consumption). What follows is a slow burn first act, where Alice’s good-natured character is developed…so watching what happens to her later is akin to the feeling of a rollercoaster descent – thrilling and sickening at the same time.
Knautz proves himself to be a master storyteller, balancing mystery and suspense with genuine moments of fright, as he also develops Shelly’s character, giving us a glimpse of her childhood in an attempt to explain why she does the incredibly f**ked up things she does. For example, she’s obsessed with the concept of perfection – which is what draws her to Alice in the first place.
Shelly has a mother whose cruelty defies belief – perfectly portrayed by JoAnne McGrath. We’re supposed to understand how a monster was created, but of course, not everyone violently traumatised in childhood by people supposed to love them turns out like Shelly. It’s really an old trope, but it is one that makes The Cleaning Lady so easy to devour, because you’re fascinated/horrified from the start.