24th Apr2019

‘The Cleansing’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Rebecca Acock, Rhys Meredith, Simon Pengelly, Luke Bailey, Christopher Vowles, Simon Nehan, Richard Burman, Sarah-Louise Tyler, Richard Tunley | Written by David Shillitoe | Directed by Anthony Smith


I was slightly surprised to find that The Cleansing wasn’t the only horror movie set in the 14th century that I have actually seen. The two most notable being Season of the Witch, starring Nicolas Cage, and the Christopher Smith directed Black Death, both of which are pretty entertaining but don’t show too many similarities with The Cleansing.

The VVitch seems to be the most obvious influence for the filmmakers behind The Cleansing. Opting to make a movie with a similar atmosphere and style but a movie that when compared to, will always suffer. That said, there’s enough to enjoy here. The basic story is an interesting one, with a sixteen year old girl, Alice, accused of being a witch and causing a plague that has killed many in the small village she lives, while also being blamed for her own fathers death. After being tortured,she manages to escape execution and flees into a nearby forest when she happens upon a healer who might be able to help her or at least give her an ally.

The relatively inexperienced cast do a decent job. Rebecca Acock, as Alice, does really well in what is only her second role. She has little dialogue despite being the main character but still conveys all the emotions of the character well. She is supported well by Rhys Meredith, who while having more experience is still a relative newcomer in film, but plays the part of the movies villain well.

One of the other highlights is the films score. Coming from Shaun Moseley, who has created music for a list of ‘straight-to-video’ style movies seems to understand horror scores well. There’s a nice atmosphere to many scenes and while some moments the volume does get ramped up to create a jump scare, that music is still very executed.

Plenty of thought seems to have gone into the costume design and general ‘look’ of The Cleansing. This is how I imagine the 14th century to look like for the most part – maybe everything does seem a bit too clean if I am being picky. This isn’t director Anthony Smith’s first rodeo and he clearly knows what he’s doing, meaning that despite its low budget, this still looks like a well made film.

The Cleansing is a bit of a slow burn but not in a way that I got bored. The final third are when things start to happen and horror fans will enjoy the most. The action and violence becomes more frequent and we almost get a kind of 14th century version of Carrie. This is the most enjoyable part of the film. The people you want to see get their comeuppance do indeed get it leading to a satisfying conclusion to the story even if any mystery the director was going for never really works.

So if you have an urge for some 14th century horror, and you have already seen the two films I mentioned earlier, then The Cleansing is worth a go.

*** 3/5


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