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Genre: Horror/Thriller
Director: Christian Alvart
Cast: Renée Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper, Kerry O'Malley, Callum Keith Rennie, Adrian Lester, Georgia Craig, Cynthia Stevenson
RunTime: 1 hr 49 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: NC-16 (Some Violence and Horror)
Official Website: http://www.case39movie.com/

Opening Day: 26 November 2009


Case 39" is a horror film starring Renée Zellweger as family services social worker Emily Jenkins. Emily thinks she has seen it all until she meets her newest, most mysterious case, troubled 10-year old Lilith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland). Emily's worst fears are confirmed when the parents try to kill Lilith, their only daughter. Emily saves her and decides to take her in herself until the right foster family comes along.

Movie Review:

I don't know what's creepier, having children characters being the devil incarnate themselves, or having real children play such demonic characters. Knowing that there's something evil behind those innocent smiles and voices just adds to the chills, and the good thing is that the film does deliver its fair share of scary moments thanks to some formulaic staples which worked, while others still came across as unintentional comedy.

Directed by Christian Alvart whose Pandorum was screened here recently, Case 39 takes place and revolves around the child welfare services, where reports of child abuse get investigated, and if necessary, the parents charged and their offspring placed under federal custody awaiting a foster home to adopt. For Renee Zellweger's Emily, being single and dedicated to her cause also meant being overworked, with the titular case being literally dropped onto her lap for follow up, which she does, and discovers Lilith (Jodelle Ferland), a frail little girl whose parents seem absolutely adamant in wanting to terminate her life, in a way so far unseen before, in a sequence which will keep you on the edge of your seat, but will at a later stage make not much sense in retrospect.

As the story goes, being encouraged to walk the talk and apply her knowledge of the best possible way to take care of the little ones, meant obtaining special approval to be Lilith's guardian. Naturally everything was fine and dandy and they do make a nice family nucleus, until strange things start happening around them, and questions arise as to whether Lilith's a prey, or the hunter herself.

In some ways this film looks at the breakdown of the family unit in being unable to care for the little ones, but we know what terror a child can wreck especially when throwing tantrums. We learn from time to time how indiscipline and out of control children can potentially be, even going to the extremes of threatening their parents and the adults in their lives, such as school teachers. But of course we would prefer to extrapolate the supernatural elements in the movie here, and opt for that tinge of horror to drive the message across a fictional platform.

Which worked to a certain degree, until the movie wore on in its measured pace, and made a couple of missteps, part of which is to resemble One Missed Call, where recipients of a phone call get to hear a heavy breathing male voice behind heavy static, serving as a warning for scary things to come up ahead. It plays on people's fears to manifest their worst nightmares into a deadly, hallucinatory environment, which holds much promise if not for the rather hurried finale that doesn't do neither the narrative nor the characters any favours, adopting a take it or leave it approach.

A pity since there was ample room for Zellweger to show off her acting chops in bring distressed by the fact that her character is bounded by moral duty from doing something more permanent and drastic to fix the problem at hand. However in stories like these, it's the kids who steal the thunder, and to some extent, Jodelle Ferland could give The Orphan's Isabelle Fuhrman a run for her money in this genre film. Bradley Cooper and Ian McShane round off the notables in the cast list as characters who add little depth to the flaccid storyline.

Then there is the major, cardinal sin made in the promotion of this movie. The trailer featured enough scenes in it to serve as deliberate sleight of hand into what this film is not, and I felt this was cheating because they're selling you a premise that does not exist, in the belief that these scenes should clearly serve as red herrings to keep the twist under wraps. A big mistake though, as it seemed that the film had undergone a rushed hack job with story rewrites and reshoots, not to mention the postponement of the release date in the US too, which ultimately spells disaster.

Movie Rating:

(Don't let the trailer fool you...)

Review by Stefan Shih


. Pandorum (2009)

. Drag Me To Hell (2009)

. Orphan (2009)

. The Unborn (2009)

. The Eye (2008)

. The Reaping (2007)

. The Messengers (2007)

. The Return DVD (2006)

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