In a scenario that feels just real enough to be both funny and creepy, The Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki takes on the role of a lonely guy with some heavy inner baggage that needs purging in The Cleanse, a new dark comedy from director Bobby Miller.
The setup for The Cleanse finds Galecki walking a far more nuanced tightrope than his CBS comedy gig, spanning subtle humor and a sort of pent-up, quiet desperation. Casting about for an outlet that can lend his life some meaning while shedding some of his worst emotional troubles, Paul (Galecki) signs on for a fasting retreat that prescribes some kind of cleansing gunk to drink — but makes no certain promises about what Paul and his fellow cleansers will spit back out.
Whenever you aren't sure whether you’ve walked straight into a cult, enigmatic leaders who feed you mystery fluids and then tell you not to ask too many questions rank high on the list of helpful red flags. The Cleanse finds just such a guru in Huston, who plays the retreat’s semi-omniscient leader — and she appears to know far more than she’s telling.
Using CGI to create a cute little demon that bears more than a passing resemblance to Stranger Things’ D’Artagnan, the movie promises to carry the idea of vomiting out your inner demons to its logical conclusion. The cute factor, Galecki told EW, helps steer the movie toward a genre-melting mashup of whimsical innocence and slow-boiling horror.
“I thought the film was fun and fantastical, and I hadn’t read anything like it before. Yet, at the same time, it was very nostalgic of things that I had seen and loved growing up, like Gremlins, [and] other things that I loved as I got a little bit older, like The Brood, or even Rosemary’s Baby, a lot of [John] Carpenter films,” Galecki explained.
Under a different title (The Master Cleanse), a version of the film first premiered at SXSW back in 2016 and went on to rack up an armload of awards on the film festival circuit. Now the movie, which Miller also wrote, is finally getting the big screen treatment and a shot at a much wider audience. The Cleanse hits theaters, as well as streaming video platforms, beginning May 4.