Opens November 5.
The Bad Seed, The Omen, Village of the Damned, Children of the Corn, Orphan – it’s the classic story of the psychotic demon child that has been done countless times before and will probably continue to be done because, let’s face it, demon children are pretty scary.
Case 39 is no different to the possessed-children-horror-films of yore. When an overly concerned social worker, Emily (Renee Zellweger), tries to save an abused child, Lilith (Jodelle Ferland), from her creepy parents, she gets way more than she bargained for, discovering that she has rescued a demonic murderer. Cue hysteria.
Zellweger does a convincing job as the concerned social worker whose misguided attempt at heroism fast turns to horror but this part isn’t really meaty enough to allow her to discover anything spectacular. In other words, anybody could have played this role. Bradley Cooper does the job as her friend and would-be lover but despite the actor’s charm, his character is rather gormless and vastly unnecessary to the story. His demise is regretful but obvious… and strangely humorous.
If I had to choose a best actor award, it would go to Ferland (previously seen in Terry Gilliam’s Tideland) who takes the cake as the demon-child, playing her role with maturity, precision and enthusiasm.
Directed by Christian Alvert and written by Ray Wright, Emily isn’t the only person who is misguided here. The film is quite unbalanced and tends to lag in certain parts. The idea is unoriginal, and there are poorly executed moments that translate as amusing rather than scary.
Then again, there are some other excellently executed moments that provide edge-of-your-seat horror – see the pissed off, third-degree burns victim somewhere in the middle. Bottom line: Case 39 is a dark, well-acted film and delivers quite a few substantial scares.