Friday, January 18, 2013
Case 39 (2010)
Social worker Emily Jenkins (Renee Zellweger) receives an assignment that will change her life forever. Emily is assigned to the case of ten year-old Liliahna Sullivan (Jodelle Micah Ferland). Liliahna’s (or “Lillith”) bad grades and awkward behavior raise some suspicious questions, and after the first visit with Liliahna’s parents, Emily suspects child abuse. Liliahna’s mother refuses to cooperate, and Liliahna’s father won’t speak to Emily directly. Instead, his wife relays his whispered messages to Emily. Determined to help Liliahna, Emily keeps a close eye on her case, and after receiving a frightened phone call from Liliahna one night, Emily rushes to Liliahna’s house. With the help of her friend and detective Mike Barron (Ian McShane), Emily breaks into the Sullivan’s house after hearing Liliahna’s screams. Mike and Emily rescue Liliahna from a torturous death, because Liliahna’s parents planned to cook her alive by trapping their only child in an oven.
Liliahna’s parents are sent to separate mental hospitals, and Emily risks her reputation and job security by adopting Liliahna. But Emily questions Liliahna’s motives after two bizarre and mysterious deaths. Douglas J. Ames (Bradley Cooper) is a psychiatrist and he’s Emily‘s close friend, and after Liliahna’s routine evaluation, Douglas is visibly shaken by Liliahna’s peculiar questions. Liliahna’s devious behavior frightens Emily, so she decides to visit her father at the mental hospital for more answers. Here, Liliahna’s father reveals Liliahna’s shocking secret: Liliahna is a demon, who preys on vulnerable people, and if she doesn’t get her way, she will kill her victims.
I never understood the hype behind Renee Zellweger, but she delivers a good performance in this film. Zellweger really shines towards the end, as the Emily character realizes she made a mistake adopting Liliahna, and Zelleweger’s nervous breakdown act is just fantastic. Cooper is believable in the “caring friend” role, and McShane was the perfect choice for the hard-ass detective persona. And I can’t forget about Jodelle Micah Ferland. Ferland’s innocence as the helpless child is spot on, and she really nailed the devious and delightfully evil side of Liliahna’s personality.
I know I’m in the minority, but I LOVED Case 39. At first, it’s a heartwrenching story of a young girl, who suffers abuse from her parents. But Case 39 slowly develops into a spooky demonic thriller, as Emily struggles to come up with a plan to get rid of Liliahna. Plus, Case 39 provides a few squirming gross-out scenes and deaths. Bradley Cooper’s hornet infestation scene in the bathroom was unreal, and it’s an easy pick for my favorite sickening moment in this film.
With all that said, I can see why a lot of critics and movie fans trashed this film. The story is kind of generic, BUT at the same time, I think the generic criticisms are somewhat overexaggerated. Case 39 features some good twists and turns, and you’re a lying sack of shit, if you “predicted” the ending (I’ve seen this in other places). There’s NO WAY anyone could’ve predicted Emily’s decision at the end step by step. It’s just impossible. If you’re just burnt out on the “creepy demonic child reeking havoc” stuff, then I can understand that. But when you pull the “I could see everything coming” card, you just sound like one of those pretentious “it’s insulting to my intelligence” douchebags.
Case 39 delivers a few good jump scares, and I was hooked into the suspenseful turmoil of Liliahna’s diabolical attacks. I admired Christian Alvart’s stylish and precise directing, and his crafty guidance enhances Case 39‘s tense and eerie atmosphere. Renee Zellweger and Jodelle Micah Ferland provide strong performances, and the supporting cast is solid. Case 39 isn’t perfect, but on the flipside, it’s not an abomination of epic proportions.
Final Rating: 7/10