Director – Christian Alvart
Cast – Renée Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper, Callum Keith Rennie, Adrian Lester, Kerry O’Malley, Cynthia Stevenson, Alexander Conti, Philip Cabrita, Vanesa Tomasino
Release Year – 2009
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I became a fan of director Christian Alvart due to his great visuals and positive direction in his first 2009 film, Pandorum, so at first I had high hopes for Case 39, his second 2009 release(although it was completed prior to Pandorum). Supernatural horror films are possibly my favorite horror films, mainly because they simply do the best job in actually scaring me, so when I came across the film’s plot I figured it would be good, until I saw the trailers. I kept my trailer watching to a minimum because I did not want them to taint my mind as I went into the film, and while I had strong feelings this one would be a stinker, I fell for the film’s incredible first half, and was utterly let down with the latter half of the film, resulting in a mediocre watch at best.
Case 39 stars Renee Zellweger as Emily Jenkins, an overworked social worker who comes across the compelling case of a Lilith Sullivan, a young and socially detracted girl that she know is suffering some sort of abuse or neglect. As Emily investigates the case she notices the very odd behavior of Lilith’s parents, and using her better judgment, spoils an attempt by Lilith’s parents to burn Lilith alive in their oven. Emily has taken a heart to Lilith, and successfully petitions to care for her until a proper foster home can be acquired. What seems like a great idea to Emily soon turns into a nightmare when those closest to her suffers terrible fates after dealing with Lilith, which leads to a stunning revelation that this sweet and battered young girl has been harboring a terrible secret.
From the story alone I was quite interested in this flick. I have seen films time and time again involving children in foster homes that turn out to be not-so-innocent children in the end, but this one came with some pretty original and spooky ideas attached, and I enjoyed that. With Orphan we got an orphaned girl who did some very bad things due to some severe mental anguish, but with this film we have a young girl who commits heinous crimes on a supernatural level, an element I have yet to see in this sub-genre but one I will gladly accept. Writer Ray Wright(The Crazies remake, Pulse remake) did a good job developing the film, having us all believe that Lilith was suffering the mental effects of coming from a terrible home in which she was heavily neglected and possibly abused as well, but boy were we wrong. When the revelation involving the locks inside her parents’ room came to light I was exposed to a few chills that I did not expect to receive, mainly because it proved that her parents were not locking her in her room, but trying to keep her out of theirs, an idea that is giving me chills as I type this, and no I am not kidding. Emily is the usual overworked character that is searching for a sense of love and attachment, which leaves her naïve to the plausibility of what is going on around her, I mean…a child could never hurt anyone right? Well I am wrong about that, and so was she, and it was great to see her response and desperation in fixing the horror she got herself involved in. If you enjoy “that’s what you get” and “I told you so” moments, then those series of events should give you what you like. Sadly, the latter half of the film really loses everything the film attained in the first half, and we get nothing but cheesy and lame clichés from then on out. We witness Lilith take full advantage over the power she has over Emily, with poorly written dialogue and execution on Alvart’s end as well.
So how did Alvart do overall with the film’s direction? In the end this was a so-so effort from him. The film was first completed back in 2007, yet did not receive a release until (technically) October 1st, 2010, a whole THREE YEARS later. Now, in the case of Paranormal Activity it was simply a case of Hollywood opting to put out stupid “entertaining” films instead of a creative and sincere watch, but in regards to Case 39 it seems the film was not release because it really is not a good film. Alvart’s direction and execution during the first half of the film aka the developmental half of the film is top-notch and he hits all the right buttons with the viewer. His pacing is good, his visuals and great, and his execution during the film’s scarier scenes is well-done, as well as the acting performances he gets. When the second half kicks in so does the garbage that writer Ray Wright threw in, and Alvart joined in stride and delivered some mediocre direction and allowed for some lame acting from Jodelle Ferland especially. He still managed to thankfully deliver this mess in a well-shot manner, but in the end it does not save the film from the very demise it created for itself.
Overall, this is a film that carried some good potential to be a good spooky watch but despite some first half genius we get a meltdown to kickoff the second half and the meltdown never ceases. If you have nothing better to do late at night then this may help relieve boredom, or better yet…help you sleep.