In the horror movie Case 39, directed by Christian Alvart the man behind Pandorum and penned by Ray Wright, we see Renée Zellweger play a role that is far away from the usual feel-good and drama movies that we’re used to seeing her in, which unfortunately, is noticeable in this film.
The story, in Case 39, follows the social worker Emily Jenkins (Zellweger) who, overwhelmed with work, gets another case on her desk, case 39. That case is about a sweet girl named Lillith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland), whose school has filed a report, where they express their concern about her wellbeing.
As Emily reviews the case and sees the photo of the cute and innocent Lillith, she decides to give it her first priority.
Emily visits the family, a visit that turns out to be a surreal and shocking experience, and she feel that something is terribly wrong and that Lillith is indeed in danger. However, her gut feeling isn’t enough to take the case further, so she gives Lillith her number, encouraging her to call, if anything would happen.
Of course, Emily’s suspicions are proven right, Lillith’s parents seemed to be taken straight from hells training camp for disturbed parents, and she manages to save Lilith just in time, before they are about to burn her alive in their gas oven.
In the aftermath, Emily gets temporary custody of Lillith, until the authorities can find a suitable foster family for her. At first, everything is fine and Emily enjoys taking on the role as a supporting parent and a friend to Lillith. However, after a couple of strange and horrible events, Emily starts to realize that Lilith may not be as innocent as she sets out to be…
Director Alvart uses little means as he gently draws out the story, without any bold strokes, such as dandy effects or advanced camera angles, which adds a touch of realism and enhances the scare factor of this movie.
Another one that contributes to the fear factor is young actor Jodelle Ferland. Her interpretation of the uncanny Lillith is superior and it’s a delight to see her switching from innocent to pure evil and back again, in such a convincing manner as she does.
One scene, where Lilith has a serious talk with Emily about the importance of talking about problems that can occur in a family, is particular memorable and her line, “What are you doing, you silly pumpkin head?” is just dazzling.
I think that Ferland shows that she posses both broad and sharp skills, throughout the movie, which feels fresh and natural, thus she outperforms the seasoned Zellweger.
In my opinion, Zellweger gives an uncertain and irregular impression and it’s clear that this isn’t Zellweger’s type of movie and I have a hard time seeing her as a scream queen, at all. Zellweger is a good actress, but I like her best when she does cozy drama comedies, as she just barely pulls this one off.
Even though Case 39 contains some flaws and tends to be cliché-like at times, I think that the story is solid, with a good momentum, that together with Ferland’s splendid performances, makes this an enjoyable horror film that I think is well worth watching.
My Rating of “Case 39”: