Case 39 (2009)

case39-11Floundering in movie purgatory for a few years, “Case 39” is a supernatural thriller that has managed to be not only an indicator of its star status and how far its performers have come, but it’s also a statement that sometimes, just sometimes, studios can be on to something when they shelve or keep movies back in production. Held back for four years only released in the UK and now just being introduced to American theaters (maybe due to Bradley Cooper’s rising star status), “Case 39” is about as horrible a movie as you can imagine. It’s a movie that should have just been given a DVD release instead of a theatrical release as a movie starring Cooper pre-“The Hangover” fame. Hint: During filming he clearly wasn’t a big enough star to live through the whole movie.

Aside from a pretty hideous death involving hornets (albeit apparently ripped off of “Creepshow”), “Case 39” is a meandering and often tedious little thriller reliant on drama and a slow witted child counselor who sees the signs of an evil child and doesn’t act against her until people start dying around her. Renee Zellweger gives an awful performance as Emily Jenkins, a sweet but work obsessed child welfare worker who takes time out to whisper everything she speaks and engage in a mostly eye roll inducing relationship with her friend Douglas (as played by Cooper). She encounters Case 39, where she must confront the parents of a young girl named Lily who is horrified to speak out against them and explain that they’re harboring a plot to kill her.

After a few annoying incidents defying common sense and logic, and a horribly drawn out murder attempt, Emily gains custody of Lily and the two form a bond that has to be strong enough for us to believe she wants to be her mother. Through montages and scenes of dialogue lacking any form of chemistry or maternal tension, Lily soon begins to reveal a whole other side to her sneaking in to her possessions, antagonizing Cooper’s character when he tries to counsel her, and denying taking part in a terrible murder involving a young boy from her counseling group who insists Lily called him the night he killed his parents.

Jordan Ferland has the proper amount of innocence to be believable as this little monster head case, but her performance is hammy. Ian McShane squanders his talents even more this time around as the police officer Mike who aids Emily in her quest to save Lily and then quickly turns on her when he’s convinced she’s had a hand in the murders taking place around them. McShane gives about as cringe inducing a performance as you can imagine. There’s even a hilarious response when he stops Lily’s parents from frying her in an oven to where he beats them up after they attempt to stop their intrusion and shrugs calmly “What is wrong with you people?”

Clearly this is a man collecting an easy payday. The final half of “Case 39” involves an ambiguous origin of Lily, really irritating supernatural incidents, and Emily’s struggle to convince others Lily is pure total evil–and we all know how that usually ends, don’t we? If you’re willing to sit through a movie that is about as fun as watching paint dry and as tense as a game of Bingo, “Case 39” is definitely your bag. Be sure to expect more yawns than gasps, though. If you’re looking for thrills, chills, and spooks going in to “Case 39” you’ll be about as out of luck as anyone who has wasted their hard earned money could be. With zero tension, little suspense, a clear lack of knowledge or focus, and cringe inducing performances from a seasoned cast, your time is best spent on a more worthwhile endeavor. I can cover my eyes and point to a horror movie at random that would be more entertaining.