Case 39
Director: Christina Alvart

Cast: Renee Zellweger, Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper
Review by Brian M. Sammons

If you are planning to watch this movie then stop reading this review and just go do that now. No, this is not because I’m about to trash this film mercilessly. Honestly, Case 39 isn’t that bad. But I will tell you something about it that may throw up warning flags, signals, flares, and everything else conceivable of just how little faith the makers of this film had for it. And how often when the makers of the movie feel bad about their product are you actually like, “well they were wrong, that film was great!” Yeah, that’s never happened to me either. So if you want to see this supernatural thriller with as clear a mind as possible, stop reading right … now!

Don’t believe the 2010 release date for this “new” movie. It is actually over four years old. It was shot in 2006 and then shelved for years until being first released in the UK in March 2010 and then later, begrudgingly in North America in October in an attempt to cash in on the Halloween vibe. So that should tell you just how awesome Case 39 is. You know, I seem to remember another fright flick staring Renee Zellweger that was shelved for a long time. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, aka The Return Of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (you know, the one with Matthew McConaughey in it) and we all know how great that flick was. Hmm, what’s with Ms. Zellweger and choosing incredibly bad horror films to be in?

Now rest assured, Case 39 is nowhere as awful as that Chainsaw film, but it is a far cry from being good. This movie has Renee as a beleaguered social worker named Emily whose latest case (number 39) involves the creepy little girl from the Silent Hill movie, who amazingly looks exactly like she did in that 2006 fright film flop. When was this movie made again? Oh right … anyway Zellweger goes to meet the young girl, Lilith (get it?) and her over-the-top creepy and so obviously abusive parents. Demented daddy all but takes a blowtorch to the little girl in front of the social worker so Emily knows they’re no good. She enlists the aid of a police detective buddy played by a woefully underutilized Ian McShane. Mr. McShane, of HBO’s Deadwood fame, is easily the brightest spot of light in this dreary, slow, and clichéd movie. Well in short order Emily and the cop save sweet, innocent Lilith from being cooked in an oven Hansel and Gretel style by her kookie parents. The social worker becomes the little girl’s foster parent and they both lived happily ever after.

Yeah right. Did anyone believe that was going to happen even for a second when they watched this film? Just like I’m pretty sure I can tell you without throwing up the usual spoiler warnings that, surprise, surprise, the little girl turns out to be evil. Yes, her mad mom and dad were just trying to get rid of the spawn of Satan in an overly elaborate and silly manner. What, was there no guns, knives, rope, poison, blunt objects or sharp sticks handy? So all too soon Emily realizes that the creepy little girl named Lilith has “the soul of a demon.” She can kill people by showing them their fears, convince pre-teens she barely knows to kill their parents over the phone, and throw supernatural tantrums when she doesn’t get ice cream.

The rest of the movie plays out following the Evil Kids 101 playbook to the letter. Once again, it’s not a really bad film, but it doesn’t have an ounce of originality, kind of drags at times, and you can see the surprises coming from a mile away. The direction is mediocre at best, but the film never has any mystery, suspense, dread, or anything else you’d look for in a horror film. The acting ranges from phoning it in by Renee Zellweger to Ian McShane’s good but too little used performance. The special effects are of the CGI variety and look competent for the most part, although the glimpses of the demon do look a tad silly. There are a few splatters of blood but no real gore to speak of.

Matching the “meh” feel of the movie, the Blu-ray from Paramount is just about average, The picture looks crisp and clear, even if the movie seems happy to live in a muted world of grey, brown, and blue. There are a few nice featurettes, four of them to be exact of various lengths and a smattering of deleted scenes. But there’s nothing else, not even a commentary track.

So just like Case 39 the Blu-ray for it gets a just passing grade of C. As such I cannot recommend this film or rail against it. It might be a decent enough rental if you are a big fan of creepy kid flicks, but it’s not necessarily something you have to add to your home library.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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