Case 39

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Demon Child Better at Annoying than Frightening

Reviewed by Rebecca Wilson
on Sun, Oct 03 2010

Being a social worker is hard work. It’s exhausting and thankless, not to mention underpaid. So maybe it was in the interest of verisimilitude that Renée Zellweger looks so frumpy and haggard from the beginning of Case 39, even before the scary stuff starts happening.

See / Skip
See it if: 
You want a few thrills without being truly disturbed
You are a fan of the campy horror genre
You enjoy being startled, even by cheap shots
Watching people die in gruesome ways makes up for some major plot holes
Skip it if: 
You are a social worker
You occasionally wonder if your children are possessed
Children in horror movies should be freaky or annoying, not both
Stinging insects give you the willies

Zelwegger plays Emily Jenkins, a workaholic children’s services social worker, who is assigned her 39th caseload—Lily (Jodelle Ferland), a young girl who has recently started withdrawing at school. When Emily visits the family’s house, she quickly notices something amiss. The parents seem like unhinged religious zealots, but there’s no apparent sign of abuse. A few days later she and her cop buddy (Ian McShane) bust into their house in the middle of the night to find the parents attempting to roast young Lily in the oven. They are sent to a mental institution and Emily gets temporary custody of Lily.

At this point, the story, which has been moderately interesting up till now, should start to get really scary. Instead, it becomes ridiculous. Laughably so.

See, Lily is evil. It’s not that she’s possessed by demons; she is a demon. And while the freaky-child brand of horror movie is often the most unnerving, this one isn’t, mostly because the child in question is so completely annoying.

There is an unintentionally hilarious scene involving a whole lot of hornets and Bradley Cooper, who plays a child psychologist and Emily’s love interest. But it’s hardly worth seeing the movie just for that.

Case 39 was filmed all the way back in 2006 and set for release in 2008. But it was delayed and delayed…and delayed. It finally came out in Latin American, Europe and Australia in August 2009, but didn’t make it to American theaters until Oct. 1. The reason? Had to be because it sucked so much.

Fri, October 01
Click here to view site
R
109 mins
English
$ 17M