Film Review: Case 39 (2009)

Case 39 was shot in 2006 and was supposed to come out in 2008. However, thanks to some Paramount release date juggling it is finally coming to a theater near you on October 1st, 2010. The same release date debacle ultimately forced the far superior Trick 'r Treat to be finally released on DVD. I always find it interesting that you could be watching something marketed as "new" in the theater that was shot over 3 years ago. Sometimes films are in developmental limbo for years before they eventually reach production...sometimes films are finished and shelved for a few years before they finally show up at a theater near you...sometimes I touch myself for no apparent reason. Case 39 worth the wait?

Not really.

We are introduced to Emily Jenkins, a social worker played by Renee Zellweger's usual brand of acting (and unusually strenuous ability to smile), who is given the ominous task of taking on her next case. Wanna guess what number case that is?

We are also introduced to Doug (Bradley Cooper). Doug's a pussy. His only notable scene involves a swarm of hornets and all of his orifices.

Jodelle Ferland plays young Lilith, the girl at the center of Emily's new case. You see, her parents hate her and wish bad things to happen to her. Well, it isn't too long before Emily drops a dime on the parents...or rather...Lilith drops a dime on her parents and both Emily and Detective Barron swoop in to save Lilith from a pot roast demise. That's pretty much the nutshell of the introduction. Not much of a spoiler because the whole fuckin' movie feels like a trailer. Seriously. I think the editor of this film decided to cut the film to look like one big 109 minute trailer. I'm not sure if I watched an early version that still needed a significant amount of reworking...but, all the special f/x and soundtrack seemed fine so, I think this is the final version.

Now, before I talk more about the bad...I wanna talk about the good. Ian McShane (from Deadwood) is impeccable as Detective Barron. While the rest of the cast is fumbling around looking for something in the script to pull out a half way decent performance, McShane stands in a class all his own. He commands the camera whenever he is onscreen and every time he shares a scene with Zellweger it's like watching a do and don't tutorial on acting. I think the film would have worked better if it had centered around McShane kicking some demon girl ass. The man is that good. I can't wait to see him in more genre stuff.

Jodelle Ferland is great, too. As Lilith, she seems to bring just the right amount of creepy menace to go along with her young innocence. At such a tender age, Ferland's already amassed quite the impressive resume within the horror genre. Playing roles in the mostly decent Silent Hill, the under-appreciated TV show Supernatural and the anticipated super secret project by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard The Cabin in the Woods. She's got that look to her whenever she's onscreen as if she's just done something bad. I'm sure she'll be a presence to watch in years to come.

I wish this film was much better. I really do. I originally watched the trailer attached to The Last Exorcism and instantly wanted to like this film. But, as far as movies about evil kids go, this one isn't that great. Last year's Orphan was much better. The biggest difference that Case 39 potentially brings to the cinematic table is the supernatural element. If the film had been made in more capable hands then the oh-my-God-she's-the-fuckin'-devil premise would've worked so well. Especially once the story actually gets going. It has such creepy potential I actually dislike the film even more thinking that it might have been scarier. Director Christian Alvart might be the guy to shoulder the burden for this mishap. He also directed the almost good Pandorum, a film that actually shares some of the same problems as Case 39.

So, in the end...was it worth the 2 year wait? Well, it comes out on October 1st, kicking off the horror movie season so, I'll allow you to be the judge of that. I, personally, may recommend it for a DVD horror movie marathon on films that had so much potential. There's a scene at the end where Lilith reaches for Emily in a last attempt to take her with her to where she is ultimately going, and it is one hell of a haunting scene...the stuff that nightmares are made of. But, I can't really recommend a film based on a few great scenes stringed together in an otherwise incoherent wasted movie watching experience.

Case 39 gets a 4 out of 10 for exactly four great scenes and a superlative performance by the great Ian McShane. Case fuckin' closed.

Thank you for reading,



  1. Case fuckin closed? oh wait! I just got it!


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