Case 39 was actually completed in 2007 yet it took three years before it was finally released in the United States. This usually happens when the filmmakers are either too short financially or they’re holding out for one of the stars to perhaps ‘make it’ and therefore establish the movie as potential hit. In this case (no pun intended!), it seems that the presence of Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, anyone?) was thought to be the money-maker. However, Case 39 never made much of an impact with audiences.
Case 39 wasn’t terribly scary and is best described as a psychological thriller. There’s always something about children playing evil characters that I find chilling and very disturbing to watch, but I suppose that is the beauty of this film. I thought that Jodelle Ferland did a good job with this one, as I can’t imagine it being an easy role to play. But unfortunately, I felt that the horror movie Orphan (directed by Jaume Collet-Serra) was way too similar a film, which managed to achieve a much better effect using a story that is almost parallel. With Case 39, there was an unsettled atmosphere present from the very start which definitely made for a good viewing experience, but this was all slightly more muted than it should have been due to the fact that it ended up getting released after Orphan. Maybe they saw the success that Orphan received and thought that they could jump on the bandwagon, as it were, but it ended up backfiring. Quite severely.
However, I liked the fact that the story of this film started out as if it was heading in one direction before taking a U-turn about midway through. The movie begins with Emily (played by Renee Zellweger), a social worker, becoming introduced to a family whose child, Lillith (played by Jodelle Ferland), is showing signs of neglect. When the parents of the Lillith actually attempt to kill her, Emily decides to take it upon herself to have custody of the child. All seems fine, until bad things start to happen, all of which seem to have some connection to Lillith. This sympathy that the viewer has for Lillith is soon turned upside down and I found that a very engaging plot twist. It’s always good when a film takes you by surprise. It wasn’t fall-off-my-chair surprising, by it was a nice little development.
My favourite scene would actually have to be the one with Bradley Cooper and the hornets, where we see hornets coming out of him! Literally out of his ears, eyes, nose, mouth, I kid you not! There’s something about that which managed to make my skin crawl and shivers creep down my spine, so well done to German director Christian Alvert on that one. In a way, it reminded me of something from Candyman or even Drag Me To Hell when Alison Lohman’s character swallows and coughs up a fly.
Although, I felt that Case 39 did stretch the realms of believability a tad too much for my liking with the fact that the social worker ends up adopting Lillith (temporarily), when I am fairly sure that this is not at all the correct procedure for those kinds of situations. I’m not sure I really bought Renee Zellweger’s performance at all in this one, which is disappointing, especially considering the amount of awards that she has won in previous years. So whilst this film isn’t bad as such, there are a good few moments which could have done with a bit of work. Some of it was quite clichéd, like the appearance of the child (slick, black hair) and the ‘gruff’ cop helping out as a favour – these things are so typical Hollywood that I was left sighing in frustration.
By all means, give it a watch though, but don’t expect anything over or above mediocrity.