Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Cleaner (2007)

I admit it…I’m a neat-freak. I cannot rest until every square inch of my humble abode is arranged just so and devoid of dust, dirt or debris. On the off-chance that I get busy and can’t clean up, I’ll devote an entire day to picking up the slack and cleaning EVERYTHING.

And while I’m taking out trash that includes DVD and In ‘N’ Out wrappers, energy drink cans, coffee grinds and dust bunnies, Grace, the lead character from The Cleaner, is taking out the trash of an entirely different sort in this short film.

Grace (Kristin Burke) is a pretty redhead who just happens to be obsessive about cleanliness. Everything must be clean and germ-free in her world. She carries disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizing gel wherever she goes to rid herself of that not-so-clean feeling she always gets. Her co-worker Paul (Chris Angelo) likes to harass her about her condition while her husband (Owen Thomas) feels like he can’t even touch her without her needing a shower. One day, Grace gets fired from her job and comes home early, only to find her husband in bed with another woman (Shannon Lark). Right away, Grace snaps into cleaning mode, snatching the filthy sheets from Vicki, the other woman, and throwing them in the washer. Her husband calls her a freak and tells her he is leaving her…she can have everything but he wants nothing to do with her anymore. Grace finally comes to the realization that she isn’t the dirty one, but everyone else is, and decides it is time for some heavy-duty spring cleaning…

The Cleaner may only be a 22-minute low budget film, but for how well it is made it ranks up there with any big budget film. I’ll let you in on a little secret. I actually know the filmmaker, a fact most reviewers would be loath to reveal because they may be more likely to skew their reviews towards the positive when they know the filmmaker. I am usually hesitant to review anything a friend has done due to the fact that I’m honest. And in being honest, sometimes you lose a few friends. Still, I was eager to see what Michelle Fatale had done with The Cleaner and I am pleased to say, friend or foe, no one can deny that The Cleaner is a very fine film.

Every detail, from the acting to each shot within a scene, is meticulous and clean. This is no sloppy, low-budget offering by a couple of frat dudes with a camera, gallons of fake blood and a few naked girls. The Cleaner is a polished, engaging and high-end tale of obsession and revenge. And it’s damn fun, too.

The script, penned by Michelle Fatale and Craig McGee, draws you into the story from the opening credits that show a perfectly put-together suburban home to the sly, winking-at-the-camera closing scene. Everything in the film is believable and there are no plot holes – two major things that most horror movies sadly seem to lack. The character development is done well and even though the film is only around 20 minutes long, it still gives us characters we care about.

In low-budget films, I’m usually used to bad acting, but not in this film. Like everything else the acting is top-notch. Grace is portrayed by Kristin Burke as isolated and kind of an ice queen, but we still empathize with her character. I couldn’t help but root for Grace when she seeks her revenge and starts “cleaning up” the neighborhood! Shannon Lark as Vicki also does a remarkable job, though her screen time is indefinitely shorter than Burke’s. She does not waste the time she has, though, giving it her all and really playing spectacularly against Burke’s character. The men of the short, Chris Angelo as co-worker Paul and Owen Thomas as Grace’s husband, play their sleazeball parts to a T. It was a pleasure seeing them both get their due at the end of the film.

Which brings me to the gore portion of the film: Grace uses industrial strength cleaning products on different areas of the human body, all with the same result…death! The revenge scene was pretty much my favorite within the film, with Grace getting nitty gritty on us and taking out the trash! The special FX are handled appropriately for a low budget film and look great!!

I don’t normally kiss ass and I’m usually hardest on my friends, but I was very impressed by Michelle Fatale’s The Cleaner. Despite the low budget the short film looks professional and has high production values. The acting, writing and direction are impressive for any film, not just good because it’s a low budget film. I highly recommend this film and look forward to its success in the future!

Clean freak or not, it looks like I “cleaned up” with The Cleaner!

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