Skip to content

The Cleanse (2016), a strikingly sincere creature feature about facing your inner demons.

September 8, 2019

MY CALL: Equal parts comedy, drama, fantasy and light horror, this film isn’t exciting or riveting or hilarious or tense. It’s sincere! I was constantly engaged by the characters’ self-realization and I was especially pleased with how unique it felt. Highly recommended. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Cleanse: Tough to say. Perhaps The Leftovers (2014-2017), Her (2013) and The Endless (2017).

When we meet Paul (Johnny Galecki; Rings, The Big Bang Theory, I Know What You Did Last Summer), he seems desperate for human connection and is clearly out-of-practice from his own self-isolation. Lonely, lovelorn, and seeking to heal and rebuild himself, he responds to an ad for a free therapy retreat which includes a sort of juice cleanse to accompany his mental cleanse. Along with Maggie (Anna Friel; Limitless, Timeline), Eric (Kyle Gallner; Beautiful Creatures, Jennifer’s Body, A Nightmare on Elm Street) and Laurie (Diana Bang; Bates Motel), they are accepted into the program which transpires in quiet cabins in the woods.

The cleansing program is led by Lily (Anjelica Huston; The Addams Family 1-2, The Witches) and Ken (Oliver Platt; Lake Placid, 2012, The Temp, Flatliners), and begins with the consumption of four comically disgusting jars of liquid… ensued by various bodily evacuations. Most of this will be met with a light-hearted grin as we watch Paul “weird” his way through his own social awkwardness, his fondness for Maggie, and his bafflement at what comes out of him.

The tone captures a dry innocent humor that splices together optimism and weirdness before later transmuting into a more serious atmosphere. Strange and tactful, brusque yet delicate, writer and director Bobby Miller (Critters Attack!) has crafted a different kind of creature feature in the form of healing and self-discovery. As Paul physically confronts his literal “inner demon”—at first a cute, neotonous, slimy little salamander merman thing—he finds compassion for the creature. The difficulty will be letting go of this part of himself. For as any fault that exists in ourselves, it begins small and innocent, and then it develops as we become monsters. And as it grows, we continue to grow used to it, in denial of it, or even forgiving its flaws.

Mixing vibes of cultish dogma and trendy alternative medicine, this eccentric film posits a world in which we may actually face, physically confront, and even exterminate the worse in us… if we have the courage to do so… if it’s even the right thing to do. As the story progresses, so does the danger to our characters and the importance of how and if they will finish the cleansing program.

Equal parts comedy, drama, fantasy and light horror, this film isn’t exciting or riveting or hilarious or tense. It’s sincere! I was constantly engaged by the characters’ self-realization and I was especially pleased with how unique it felt. Highly recommended.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 8, 2019 7:51 am

    I haven’t even heard of this movie… is it streaming? I am intrigued even though Johnny Galecki is playing his typical role of nice-guy-introvert… again.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      September 8, 2019 8:03 am

      I rented it from Amazon Prime.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      September 8, 2019 8:06 am

      I know what you mean about Galecki, but he (and most everyone) served this film well. The only marginal performances (if any) were by marginal characters. Most aspects of the filmmaking were very impressive in my eyes.

      • September 8, 2019 9:21 am

        I didn’t mean it in a bad way, I only meant you know what to expect when you see his name in a film credit… and he does it well, so certainly not a detractor.

  2. September 8, 2019 8:12 am

    I have been meaning to watch this movie. I will have to check it out.

Trackbacks

  1. John’s Horror Corner INDEX: a list of all my horror reviews by movie release date | Movies, Films & Flix

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: